The Short Review: While always unsettling, this memoir is honest and beautifully written. It handles it’s tough subject matter with the nuance and complexity it deserves. Not for everyone, but if you like memoir and bizarre relationships, this is one for you.
The Long Review: Kathryn Harrison has written this story before. Her first book was a thinly veiled version of these events. But it’s here, when the reality is laid out, that we realize just how heartbreaking the truth really is.
Harrison is a gifted writer. Her prose are stunning, and there are moments of such exquisite beauty, you almost want to tear them from the page and hang them in your home…if, you know, it wasn’t in regards to something so disturbing. But, while it’s beautiful, it’s not meant to lure you in. This text could almost work as a response to Lolita. Unlike the narrator of Lolita, Humbert, who uses language to seduce you, Harrison makes it clear how uncomfortable this situation is.
The way she writes about her father exposes the terrible things he did, but it never writes him as a villain. You can see the parts of him that she fell in love with—in the way a daughter would normally love a father—and then she tracks the ways he manipulated it into his favor. It made me wonder what was actually going on in his mind at the time to do such things. She never blames him, even though it’s clear that it’s his fault. And though the book circles around their relationship, the specific encounters only take up a small part of the book. It’s more about how this relationship changes every other aspect of her life. She’s so honest, and that’s what I loved. If you like books that ask hard questions, this is a good one.
If you have read this book, I’d love your thoughts on it. I had a lot of strong reactions from people. Some were extremely harsh, saying it was terrible and she shouldn’t have written the book. Others were heartbroken for Harrison to have ever gone through this. It’s definitely one that inspires deeper conversation.