Friday, May 16, 2008

House Rules - Rachel Sontag (And a Request)


House Rules - Rachel Sontag


“We were together in our lies. All of us, that’s how we got by. Our lies were our unspoken way of living around the unreasonable.”


I’ve been reading quite a few memoirs these days. Needless to say, most do not recount happy childhood memories. The authors write these books to banish demons, to make sense of the incomprehensible and to (hopefully) make peace with a past that haunts them. They share their heartbreaking stories. And having written them, they then attempt to carry on with their lives with some degree of resolution.

I understand this. I too have used the written word (albeit in the form of fiction) to come to terms with events in my past. But my past did not include such an ongoing relentless horror as the one Rachel Sontag endured.

Abuse takes many different forms. Growing up, Rachel Sontag endured cruel, insidious psychological and verbal abuse – the sort of abuse that confuses, frightens and leaves indelible marks upon the psyche of a young child.


From inside the front cover flap:


“At an early age, Rachel Sontag realized there was something deeply wrong with her father. On the surface, he was a well-respected, suburban physician. But questioning his authority led to brutal fights; disobedience meant humiliating punishments. When she was twelve, he duct-taped her stereo dial to National Public Radio, measured the length of her hair and fingernails with a ruler, and regulated when she could shower.

A memoir of a father obsessed with control and the daughter who fights his suffocating grasp, House Rules explores the complexities of their compelling and destructive relationship, and his equally manipulative relationships with his wife and other daughter. As Rachel's mother cedes all her power to her husband, and her sister fades into the background of their family life, Rachel fights to escape, and, later, to make sense of what remains of her family.”


I admire Sontag’s bravery, her ability to escape from those binding and cruel ties and to then be able to go on and recount the experience with such maturity, skill and even humour. Her hard-won insight and talented prose skills enabled her to create something of value from her pain – a gift both for herself and her readers.

She is still so young. I wish her peace and strength as she continues her journey - for you never quite leave your past behind, particularly when it involves family.

An insightful and disturbing book, “…House Rules will keep you reading even when you most wish you could look away.”

It’s not a book for the faint of heart but I do recommend it for those who seek to understand their troubled pasts - and themselves.

***

I must start reading more lighthearted fare – books that are a little less sombre and depressing.
AMC, Mrs. G. and Beth have all suggested books for me.
Does anyone else have any suggestions? I’m open to just about anything but do draw the line at serial killers, mass murderers and other sick-psychos.

15 comments:

VE said...

I suggest Green Eggs and Ham. It's very light...only 50 different words but a good page turner and...bonus...it rhymes! What more could you want...

Mrs. G. said...

I am so drawn to dark and disturbing memoirs that I will have to read this.

oreneta said...

ok....I love Bruce Chatwin, if you've never read him, he isn't lighthearted, but he isn't down either, he wrote BRILLIANT literate books that were superficially about travel.

In the light department havfe you read any of the Alexander McCall Smith series?

Ummm, Peter Mayle is pretty light...I'd get him from the library....I like Paul Thereux's travel books, especially the polynesian ones.

Eric Newby is awesome, and his wife, who makes occasional appearances in the books (again travel lit) has ALL the best lines.

Ummm, I have so few of my books here,

I love every word Gerald Durrell wrote, brother of Lawrence, My Family and Other Animals is his most famous....

Did you ever read James Herriot while we are on animals and British Authors...

Dick Francis writes a page turner, they are crime based, but not horrific...again, that's a library run....

Hmm, I can certainly go on with the light reads....

ULTRA light...I can tolerate one Maeve Binchy... particularily the class of students learning Italian...she can be a touch hard to stomach though...depends how light you want to go, we're sucking helium here....

Ellis Peters (AKA Edith Parageter (Sp?)) writes great crime novels based in a monestary in medieval Britain...agian light but fun, and I have always enoyed them...

OK...I'm gonna stop now...(I just told a student that you can NEVER write gonna, so now I'm gonna!)

I am not sure I will read this one I have to confess....

I also loved green eggs and ham...I think I can still recite it...Sam I am...

oreneta said...

Me again, I am sorry, I have to spell check before I push publish...and it is the book you reviewed that I think I won't read, just for the sake of clarity.

*blush*

Princess Pointful said...

It is scary how I started mentally going through my favourite books, and realized how few "light" ones there are.
He's not super happy, but not insanely heavy-- have you read any Timothy Findley?

Eileen said...

I love memoirs, this is going on the top of my list!!

I did just finish reading The Friday Night Knitting Club by Katie Jacobs. Also, a friend liked The Elegant Gathering of White Snows by Kris Rasdish (I haven't read it yet). Ask Again Later by Jill Davis. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is suppose to be good, but I havent' gotten to it yet. Finally, A Tale of Two sisters by Anna Maxted. Suppose to be great!
XOXOX

insane mama said...

I love memoirs also, I got hooked when I read memoirs of a geisha and now I am always looking for memoirs!

Patti said...

How about revisiting Pippi Longstocking? I've been reading them to my class...so much fun!

Lyn Cash said...

love the cover of Rachel's book - but damn, what a powerful dip into hell *shudder*

I've been drawn lately to survival books - and I've yet to climb any mountain worthy of being called a mountain - lol, much less weathered an avalanche, but...something in me has been latching onto those stories.

even read one years ago about a woman married to a spy that intrigued me...she was a model on "The Price Is Right", and her husband was a Russian spy who disappeared. Pennington was her name. I'll holler back if I remember any more about it.

Lainey-Paney said...

I just finished "Odd Mom Out"...I forget the author. Easy, light-hearted read.
And, I just finished "Anna" by William Loizeaux (I have no idea if I spelled that last name right...) NOT a light-hearted read.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I feel the same way Mrs. G does. I don't have any "light" suggestions, but another memoir I recently enjoyed was "The Tender Bar."

La La said...

I read mostly the disturbing stories, you know. I think it helps me feel not so alone with my own very messed up story.

But THE SEX LIVES OF CANNIBALS by J. Maarten Troost comes highly recommended by my sister-in-law who reads funny books. I ordered it and plan on reading it soon.

Maybe we could read it together.

Sherry/Cherie said...

I think you should just lose yourself in some chick lit -- light hearted, funny and just uneducational (unless you need to know some terribly humourous ways to dump a married lover!!). Chapters/Indigo devotes whole sections and tables to this reading material. I guarantee you will be glad you picked up a few. Trust me..some of these authors are very good.

Angela said...

A powerful post. Thanks, Beth.

Angela said...

Oh, and Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. ;) (Along the Green Eggs and Ham line, I know.)