Sophia L Johnson, September 02, 2011
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Of all the books I've read this year -- and there have been a lot, I think -- this was the most affecting. It's sort of a bizarre story, to tell you the truth; the premise is dire, and I too was skeptical. It all seemed too dark and impossible to do tactfully. Here it is: the story comes from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy whose mother was abducted when she was young and has been repeatedly raped by her captor, who holds her in a windowless garden shed without any hope of escape. The boy was born in this room and experiences a very tiny reality, marked by lengths of eggshells and single crayons worn down to the nub. See what I mean? Sounds a little like an ill-fated Dexter episode that goes on too long without the redemption. But since the boy is so innocent, the story manages to never be overwrought. The dialect (5-year-old-ese) is something one must get used to, but you stop noticing around page 50. At that point, the book becomes impossible to put down. I couldn't do anything for a day while I finished it, because every single paragraph was maddeningly compelling. And Donoghue studied child psychology extensively in her writing of this book, so she does a really delightful job of detailing exactly what trauma might feel like for a child who does not know he is experiencing it.