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.