Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rape: A Love Story 

The title doesn't mean what it seems. The book opens with a narrative of one of the most vicious gang rapes I've read in a novel (in this case, a novella), narrated in second person, "you" being the 12-year-old daughter of the victim. "You" watch a group of men attack your mother, you try to run and only succeed in being grabbed and having a shoulder dislocated, and you listen, out of sight and out of mind, to an attack you don't fully understand.

Your father is dead, and your mother has been starting to date again. She's beautiful, loves the attention of men. You both were at a 4th of July party at the house of her boyfriend, but as usual, probably in deference to you, she won't spend the night in his house or let a man spend the night in your house. You're attacked when you're walking home, the two of you.

It feels like no one cares except your grandmother. Your mother has sustained neurological damage, and doesn't remember the attack for several days. Your lawyer is passionate about prosecuting justice being rendered against the men who attacked you, but she is no match for the opposing council, who calls your mother a prostitute. The town your live in tries to scare you out of testifying against their friends, brothers, sons. You find your cat dead, you assume beaten to death. Your mom won't get out of bed. Her boyfriend, feeling so guilty and helpless, gradually fades away.

You need a knight, an advocate, a champion. And of course, as any 12-year-old would, you begin to idolize and love such a man.

That's the love story.

I've read little by Joyce Carol Oates. If her other books are as powerful as this one, I'll read everything she's written by the end of the year. Yes, I know that's several dozen books. But that's how moved I was.

Thanks to your present, I read it in one sitting. Pretty good writing, with minor technical foibles not detrimental to the flow. Very convincing first-person presentation.
I read it in one sitting too. No, that's not quite true - I read the first 2 pages almost 2 years ago, decided it was too intense, and stopped. When I tried again, I read it straight through.
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