How does a child make any sense of a life that can go from the light of day to the dark of night in a heartbeat? From smooth waters to dangerous rapids that you never see coming? Each step could be the one that takes you from a safe place into terror and pain. Keele Burgin’s young life was one of glaring contrasts and terrifying uncertainties. Life on high alert. Wealth and luxury (a lavishly restored Victorian home on the ocean, horses, station wagons and Cadillacs), a severely abusive, all powerful father, a vacant, submissive mother, a stultifying, fundamentalist version of Catholicism. (Amazed me. Didn’t know that existed.)
It was rough – far more than most could imagine or endure. But if it was rough, she was tough. Their housekeeper Shirley called her Little Ox. She develops a hard shell and becomes a headstrong, hard-eyed child and teen-ager, not particularly likeable, to tell the truth. She couldn’t let herself hate her parents, so she hated herself and became an even harder, self-damaging adult, unable to maintain a giving relationship.
To be honest, at one point, I gave serious thought to bailing out of this read. Portions are somewhat erratically written, and there is an inconsistency of voice that bothered me from time to time, but I suspect it was either purposeful – a reflection of her erratic young life and inability to find any voice at all of her own – or just hard as hell to write. Or both. Too ugly, too scary – not anywhere I thought I wanted to be. (Sometimes I get a little down, you know.) Stuck it out, though, just a little longer, and was rewarded with a redemptive ending that is filled with hope. This book? Tough, but worth it.
Currently available from your local indie bookstore here.
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Little A via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.