I had to read ONE MORE BOOK for the Twenty Ten Reading Challenge. One that had to have come from a charity shop. Frankly, I doubt if anyone really cares if I finish this challenge or not, but it is like a burr in my britches to leave one on the table that I could realistically cross off my list. So here you are, on New Year's Eve. Is that an echo I hear out on the blogs today? Is anyone out there?
If you have read either "The Lovely Bones" or "The Almost Moon", I suspect you finished them and asked yourself something like "What kind of person could possibly write such a thing? This author is coming from a dark, dark place." Alice Sebold's books are completely polarizing. Some loved them. Some were completely enraged. She has an edge that many authors can't come close to emulating - she takes what is acceptable in polite society and pushes the boundaries out a couple miles. One thing you can't take away from her though...she is a compelling writer. Whether you are cringing, or crying, or screaming in outrage, you can't put her books down. This book gives you a peek inside Alice Sebold's young life, offering a few explanations.
Synopsis: When Alice was 19 and a freshman at Syracuse, she was brutally raped and sodomized. She was a virgin at the time. This book tells the story of this attack. Every stomach-churning detail, from the way the attacker smelled, every degrading action and word, every punch, every repulsive invasion. Alice recalls her experience with her friends, who supported her and who avoided her, her time at the hospital, the police headquarters, the difficulty of calling her parents.
Then begins the journey to recovery, through a life that will never be the same. Alice returns home for the summer to recover. She fills us in on her family history. Her father's emotional distance. Her mother's nervous attacks that she calls "flaps". Her sister, the over-achiever. When Alice returns to school the following fall, life doesn't get any easier. She suffers self-loathing. She is paranoid. She attempts to get her life back together. She attempts to act strong to ease the discomfort for those around her. Drugs and alcohol cushion the way.
Then she sees her assailant on the street and all hell breaks loose. There is a trial, and she must face her biggest fear - to stare down the man that ruined her life and call him by his name. Then she must destroy him.
"I let it come now, the thing that had been burning at the corners of my temples the night before and boiled beneath the surface all that year: rage."
My thoughts: Everything that is addictive about Alice Sebold's fictional work has been put to good use in what I would call "a journal from a rape survivor". Sebold doesn't hold anything back. She is fearless with this memoir. I warn you that at times it isn't easy to read. Rape isn't pretty, and it affects the victim in more ways than physical. Family members and friends are also collateral damage. It destroys one's sense of safety, one's sense of control, and sense of self. I guess I've always known this, but never has it been more evident than in reading the words of a very eloquent survivor.
It is important to know that she is the furthest thing from pompous or self-satisfied about her survival. She admits her fears, her irrational behavior, her digression into drug abuse. But she also acknowledges her desire to not back down against the despicable man who did this to her. Girlfriend kicked ass.
Despite the fact that this is a very tough subject, Sebold comes out the other side with a self-realization of her own courage, strength, and the ability to use her words to help others. After all, anyone who would use the title "Lucky" for a book like this has something to offer the world.
"But it is later now, and I live in a world where the two truths coexist; where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand."
For anyone who has been a victim of rape, or knows someone who has, I'd say this book is required reading. Even those not directly affected by rape will take something from this memoir as well too. Post-traumatic stress finds its way into lives through many cracks and crevices.
4.5 out of 5 stars