Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Don't Cry, Daddy's Here: One Woman's Journey to Recovery from Incest by Brinda Carey

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: White Bird Publications, 2011
Price: $14.95
ISBN-10: 0982802463
ISBN-13: 978-0982802465

The moment I opened Don't Cry, Daddy's Here, I knew this was going to be hard to read. It's difficult to think of any subject matter more difficult to stomach than incest, the sexual molestation of a child by a family member … let alone her own father.

Yet sometimes we need to plow ahead, read and bear witness to this now grown child's story. There is tremendous healing in storytelling, and there is great healing we who listen to that story can offer to the story teller, by hearing her out and acknowledging her life experience. So I read.

This is Brinda Carey's story of her growing up years, from the time she was hardly more than a toddler to the time that she was a young adult woman. No longer a victim, but now fully a survivor, Carey would later earn a degree in criminal justice and work as a probation officer, and she would marry and have children of her own. No doubt much of this was possible because she was able to share her horrendous experience, talk about it, and she also had her husband to lean on—the story of how they met and how he persisted in supporting her even when she resisted help is part of this story.

Not untypical in this kind of story is that Carey's mother knew what was happening, at least to some degree, but turned her back on her child and failed to protect her. Indeed, at times, she acted like a jealous wife angry at the threat of her husband's "affair" with his daughter. It is hard to read about this without having to swallow the bile coming up at the thought alone. The challenge here is to stretch the mind to encompass the thought that this woman, too, was to some degree an emotionally battered woman. With time, there was a divorce, and eventually, even a reconciliation between mother and daughter.

I will not repeat here the events of this story. Suffice it to say that a child is coerced, tricked, overpowered, overwhelmed by adult mind games, threatened, and, yes, repeatedly, over all of those years, raped. Again, again, again. Finally, to the point of being impregnated, sometimes to have her pregnancy end in miscarriage, but another time to result in the birth of a child who would eventually die due to genetic oddities caused by two so closely related people as parents. It boggles the mind and breaks the heart.

Tragedy piles upon tragedy, until Carey is finally able to mature and break free, once and for all, in spite of her father's threats to commit suicide, using this as emotional blackmail in his attempt to keep her in his life. It is at this point that it would have been powerful to read more about how this breaking free happens. The author might have shared more of her inner thought process and emotional processing, to the point where she finds the strength and wisdom to escape her abuser. It would also have been powerful to read more about how Carey achieves recovery—arguably much more powerful than the pages of quotes in the second half of the book that, I would guess, few will bother to read.

The book is, in fact, in great part comprised of biblical and other quotes, lists of resources. Carey's story, dotted with a few black and white photographs, comprises only about half of the book. Since this doesn't appear to be a part of the book's marketing or description on the cover, that can no doubt lead to disappointment for some readers expecting more of a full-length book.

Bottom line: this is not necessarily a gracefully written book, but it carries weight as an addition to the resources available for the too many children growing into damaged adults, trying to regain emotional health after being abused and molested by those they trust most. It is important for all of us to be aware that this is a problem in our society, and that the perpetrators can very well be the man next door, the one you wave hello to when outside mowing the lawn. I acknowledge the tremendous courage required of this author to speak up and go public with her own story.

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