Author: Dave Pelzer
Best Part About This Book: It’s unlike anything you’ve read before. And it’s considered an example of endurance and championing overcoming child abuse.
What’s Missing: Coherence, accuracy of fact, and explanation of the absolutely crazy details of child abuse he claims he went through.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
This book may be the most famous of child abuse stories. It spent over 200 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List. Yet I am surprised at how much people trust its veracity, especially as there are many holes in his story. For example, why does he view his father as his hero when he watches the abuse and doesn’t put a stop to it? Why is he the only one treated like a dog in the family, while his brothers receive exemplary treatment? Why does he never do anything wrong throughout the book, but only seeks to please his mother, forgive her, and pray to God? Who taught him the Lord’s prayer that he whispers toward the end of the book? How could he pretend he was the pauper from “The Prince and the Pauper” when he was only in kindergarten? Was he a well-versed reader of Mark Twain?
I finished this book disgusted with its claim of being uplifting and a soaring triumph over evil. Instead it’s been credited with the beginning of the genre “misery lit.”
And there is a morbid fascination to watch the increasing seriousness of his mother’s treatment, from lying for hours in a bathtub to getting stabbed in the stomach.
My final conclusion is that there is no doubt that Mr Pelzer suffered serious mistreatment from his parents; he had to be taken away from the California authorities. What I would ask of him, however, is to paint a fair and clear picture of everything that happened, and explain the holes in his story (such as how he could go to school for years dressed in rags and stealing food from other children in California without anyone reporting to the authorities). His parents had been dead for years when he published the book; his grandma says it belongs in the fiction section, while his brother similarly wrote a book about his own abuse. Who knows the extent of the truth of his story? Perhaps not even Pelzer himself.
I hope that his story is truly a source of hope for fellow survivors. Whether true or not, perhaps knowing you’re not alone in this type of situation is tantamount.