Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Child Called "It"

A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive, by Dave Pelzer

First things first:  I really only selected this title because I wanted to try out the newly available feature of checking out Kindle-format e-books from public libraries.  (Please note that not all libraries offer this service... yet.)  Honestly, I had a little trouble finding a title I really wanted to read that was currently available, and the Overdrive search engine leaves something to be desired, but assuming you can find a book you want to read that's not already checked out... and is in the Kindle format... it's a very quick and easy process.  With just a few clicks (after signing in with your library card number and PIN), you're ready to turn on your Kindle's wireless and load the library e-book just as quickly and painlessly as you load any book through Amazon. 

So, I chose this book because it was available for instant download and was in the Kindle format.  It's not the type of book I usually read, and it's not the kind of book I think I want to read very often-- but that said, it was compelling enough that I finished it in one day.  (And I'm not usually a finish-a-book-in-one-day kind of person, because I tend to prefer to read in smaller chunks of time.  This book's short though.  Speed-readers probably zoom through this one in an hour or so.)

There may be spoilers to come, so read at your own risk.

This book is purportedly a non-fictional, firsthand account of a child's experiences in an abusive household.  It's not what I would describe as "well written" (though I've certainly read worse), but with such a shocking story-- from a child's perspective-- simplicity is perhaps best.

It's difficult to believe that someone-- and a child, at that-- actually endured years of such treatment.  It's impossible to understand how anyone could do such things to any innocent creature-- much less her own child (in the case of the mother)-- or how someone could stand by and not intervene in any significant way (in the case of the father).

We are asked to believe that "it wasn't always like this"-- that there were "good years" before the author's mother became an abusive (more than abusive-- demented, torturous) alcoholic-- years in which his mother was the Brady Bunch ideal mom.  I have trouble accepting that.  Oh, I can believe that's how a child might remember it... but... I just don't see how that can happen.  I can't believe a person can just turn that completely evil-- not even with alcohol and marital problems.  The only way I can buy that is if his mother developed some form of insanity.

This isn't a recent publication (it's from 1995), and apparently there has been controversy surrounding the legitimacy of Dave Pelzer's story-- if not over the basic fact that he was abused as a child, then over the degree of abuse and the details he recounts.  I'll admit, several times while I read, I wondered... I felt a little guilty for doing so, because I know abuse exists, but some of it was so outlandish...  It reminded me at times of Sybil (definitely one of those books I almost wish I hadn't read, so I wouldn't have some of those images in my head)-- another work of non-fiction that seems too awful to have been completely true.

In any case, however much veracity there is in this book, at least it does offer a positive message.  (The reader's reward for suffering through the second-hand horribleness?)  Despite the stomach-turning awfulness of David's experiences, he manages to survive and achieve the kind of life he always wanted-- one full of love and warmth.  I appreciate the "moral" that no matter what anyone does to you-- no matter what happens to you--  you don't have to let it determine who you will be or how you will live your life going forth.  It's a powerful and uplifting statement-- especially if coming from someone who faced such darkness during his formative years.  ...I think I've gotten the message, though.  There's no need for me to read the two subsequent entries in this trilogy.