"I already felt different, and the embarrassment of anyone knowing I was being beat up was more than I could handle. I thought somehow it was my own fault, because no one else seemed to have the problem in their homes."

In this bold, candid memoir, the author recounts the familial violence that was her upbringing and the scars it left upon her and her older brother, who tried to be her protector. The physical abuse comes primarily from the hand of a brutal stepmother; a neglectful father is equally abusive whenever he appears after his ongoing business trips. While the author’s loving grandparents live a mere forty miles away from the scene, they remain oblivious to the abuse due to infrequent contact. After an especially brutal attack from the stepmother, wherein the author was stripped and beaten in front of her step-siblings, she and her brother decide to bolt from the house in the middle of the night. Although police apprehend and return them, the grandparents soon learn the truth and rescue them from their hellish ordeal. Olufson reminds readers that there were no child abuse hotlines in the day, no CPS. Abuse was simply not talked about.

This book is especially compelling in that Olufson provides a window into the mind of the abused child. She reproduces the dreamlike flights of fancy that provided her a temporary reprieve from the panic, isolation, and despair she suffered. Readers feel the dread she experiences on the school bus on the way home as her house comes into view. In an especially disturbing scene, the author recounts a nightmare wherein a funhouse becomes a torture chamber, with the stepmother at the controls. The latter third focuses on the dysfunctional family relationships that carried on into her adult life, showing how familial patterns of child abuse infect new generations like a constantly-replicating virus that resists extermination. For all of its somber subject matter, the book ends with hope by providing resources for caregivers, community leaders, and individuals struggling with the aftermath of abuse.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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