Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: A Child Called "It"

Book 9/30 in the 2012 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: April 20, 2012.

I found this book on Pinterest and immediately took interest in reading it.  Then my friend told me it was on sale at for something like $5.  I couldn't resist a deal like that.  So I listened to Dave Pelzer's memoir of his painful childhood.

Perhaps listening rather than reading was a mistake for me.  I found the narrator's voice to be irritating.  But furthermore, I don't think I cared for the way it was written.  Without disrespect for Dave's story, I didn't like the back-and-forth way of the way it was written.  One minute Dave is certain that there can't possibly be a god and the next, Dave is bowing his head in the backseat of his mother's stationwagon and praying "harder than [he'd] ever prayed before."  It switches a lot.  Between David now narrating and David as a child responding to his mother's erratic behaviors.

As far as the story goes, I found it to be absolutely unbearable.  The thought of a mother behaving this way towards her own child makes me physically ill.  Dave's mother, "The Bitch", singled out Dave - one of her five sons - and treated him as the absolute scum of the earth.  She came up with cruel and unusual punishments for this child.  Banished him to the basement garage on an army cot as his sleeping quarters, locked him in a bathroom with a bucket full of bleach and ammonia, starved him for days on end - and then when she did feed him, fed him the most ridiculous ways possible - regurgitated frozen hotdogs, table scraps, leftovers from his brothers' morning cereal bowls.  Beat him senselessly, made him lie - nude - in a bathtub filled with cold water and then immediately sent him to the back yard to sit - soaking wet - in the shade, smeared a soiled diaper on his face and tried to force him to eat it's contents...  Imagine all the most horrific things you can, and they're probably in Dave's story.

The worst part, though, is not his mother - who is obviously a very sick woman and should have been institutionalized.  The worst part is his father, a spineless San Francisco firefighter that allowed all of these things to happen right under his nose and did nothing to stop his deranged wife.  Even when Dave begged his father for help, the man did absolutely nothing to stop her or to help his son.  I absolutely can't understand any bit of logic in this behavior.

This was a quick read - under 5 hours recorded from Audible - and I'm glad I listened to it.  I'm also glad Dave wrote the book and then managed to make such a successful life for himself despite such a horrific beginning.  I gave the book two stars on Goodreads, though, mostly for writing style and also maybe a little bit because I'm irrational and wished that in times like these, nonfiction could work out to be a little less heartbreaking.  Oh and also because it touched religion a little more than I personally thought was necessary.  I'm going to go hug my kids for a while now.

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