Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scars are stories, history written on the body. – Kathryn Harrison - Week 7

It took me a while to write about The Kiss. I’m not going to lie… this story deeply disturbed and saddened me. I was almost hesitant to pick it up after it piqued my interest. The other day I was watching an episode of Oprah where Mackenzie Phillips was the guest. She was talking about her book, High on Arrival, which talks about an incestuous relationship that she had with her father. Kathryn Harrison was a guest on the show, speaking out about the consenual (and sexual) relationship that she had with her father starting at the age of 20.

I’ve never read such a melancholy book. Every page was dripping with sadness, hopelessness, and desperation. I could almost feel Ms. Harrison’s depression and loss of self. That being said, any book that incites that kind of emotion is a literary accomplishment in itself. She has a way of crafting her words to make you not only read what she’s portraying… but to get you to feel it. Almost as if you were experiencing it yourself. I felt anxious and nervous to find out where this incestuous relationship would go next. I was shocked and scared as I read it.

My first question was – How could a relationship between a father and daughter be consensual? Something so wrong… so taboo. Ms. Harrison explains that her father was the master manipulator, fully capable of playing on her insecurities and loneliness. She was raised by her mother and her father was absent for much of her youth. Despite his physical absence his presence still loomed large in her life. Ms. Harrison’s mother remained in love with her father throughout her childhood, despite their separation. Her father is described as charismatic and able to draw people to him easily.

The book was tastefully written, never delving into the “gritty” physical details of the relationship but focusing on the emotional aspects of it. I was struck by how much courage Ms. Harrison has to share this story. Putting a shameful and taboo situation out there and giving others the courage to step out and speak about incest and abuse candidly.

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