CBRBingo14: Shadow (the family history is a shadow over the writer’s life)
Sometimes you read a very well reviewed, technically well written, and well researched book and find the narrator annoying, and that’s what happened here for me. She Left Me the Gun is a memoir about Brockes researching her mother’s life after her death from cancer. Through her research, she finds out the truth about her grandfather’s abuse of his children, and she connects with her family in South Africa. This book is very competently written and I liked the photos throughout. I also appreciate the research that she did to make the family story come to life, and it is a readable book. I just personally found her attitude irritating — I guess I wanted her to buck up and face the truth, and her continued squeamishness around the issue became more and more perplexing for me. At one point she says “The story makes too great a demand on the listener,” which I didn’t agree with at all. A, you should choose a listener who can handle it if you need someone to talk to, and B, some stories need to make a demand on the listener because they’re not easy stories.
There’s also a section where a celebrity she’s interviewing tells her about her own mother’s sexual abuse, and Brockes is so upset by the disclosure that she just skates by it — which seemed to be a continuation of her own personal revulsion and horror around this topic, but which then cuts off someone else’s opportunity to tell their family story. I just felt like she never seemed to do any real research into the psychology and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and only focused on her feelings about her mother, which left a gap in her ability to process and understand what had happened. I also hero-worship my mom to an extent and I can understand the need to write a book about how awesome your mom is, and my dad died so I understand the need to preserve memory. But I wish she had pushed herself just that little bit more and gotten even deeper.
Warnings for a lot of frank descriptions of child sexual abuse, rape of children, physical abuse, child neglect, alcohol and drug abuse, cancer.