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[166] My Abandonment – Peter Rock

001Advanced Reader’s Copy
Publication: March 12, 2009 (revised)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“Don’t forget this. Don’t forget that thinking can get in the way. Forget the forgetting. We seek to forget ourselves, to be surprised and to do something without knowing how or why. The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment.” [200]

Thirteen-year-old Caroline is a bright kid who has outsmarted the peers of her age. Her father is a veteran who home-schools her with encyclopedias and books from the library while also imbuing in her a rigid code of behavior that schools, or the society as a whole, fails to teach in an age of moral decadence. The anonymous Father (for security purpose) and daughter have lived in Forest Park, a 5400-acres urban park in Portland, Oregon, taking shelter in a house like a cave dug out with roof made of branches, wire and metal with tarp and plastic on top.

“The latrine, a trench with a bag of lime hidden in the bushes, is further away and we dig a new one every two weeks.” [11]

Granted they have settled down in the dark and lived like aborigines, they are expertise in not drawing any attention by eradicating all vestiges. They dress in camouflage and move from time to time. They are constantly in alert of helicopter and wear a flashlight overhead. They never consider themselves homeless because the live in the wood by choice, escaping the wilderness of the city. Father has a bank account into which he deposits his veteran pension check and holds a P.O. box at the post office. This distinction is salient and is often reinforced:

“The bus station is the saddest place to see. Homeless people are asking for change outside and I wait out there while Father goes in. When he comes out he turns so no one can see and he has bills of money folded thick in his hand.” [140]

As much as Father believes Caroline is growing up to be a healthy young woman and that she outsmarts the other kids, she is not a well-rounded kid. Paranoia at times exerts a grip on her. And the Father is a fool who fails to perceive how out-of-sync he is, and how it affects his daughter. Maybe his pride and stubbornness are what drain my sympathy for them as they drift from place to place, despite the tenderness in their relationship. His flaw, which dooms him later, is the naiveté, the ignorance as a result of his being isolated from the society and failing to recognize evil in his face. The issue is no longer about conforming to the society’s rules and expectations, nor is about morality. It’s plain survival, which he fails. His refusal to conform has deprived of common sense altogether. His good intentions and love have seriously gone wrong.

My Abandonment is based on a true story of people who choose to renounce societal tie, and who find themselves at home amidst wilderness, who dream in the direction in which keeping sweetness of one’s solitude has a miserable impact on the quality of life. Despite the tenderness and poignancy with which it is written, the book has a flaw in establishing connection between events before and after the flight from city to wilderness. The mention of some foster family is vague and confusing. The tantalizing story that opening has promised never delivers. This novel doesn’t rank high in priority if one is looking for a gripping storyline. It’s bland like a cup of lukewarm water.

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for stopping by: RYC: The Guernsey book is actually better on audio than on paper — it is made for listening!

  2. Oh that’s too bad about this one. It sounded like it had a lot of potential too. I may give it a look one of these days but I’ve been forewarned 🙂

  3. Hi Matt,

    Have you thought of posting one of your reviews elsewhere?
    See if you could post it to http://www.jroller.com/bookreview

  4. Now this is the art of reviewing a book that is not so good. Great job done as usual!

  5. I remember the true story from the newspaper; didn’t realize there’d been a book written about it. Interesting.

  6. Beth F:
    I’m enjoying Guernsey during my commute now. I don’t want to get off my car!

  7. Iliana:
    I couldn’t bring myself to like this one, although I don’t hate it. It’s just one of those books that doesn’t register in me.

  8. John:
    It’s less taking than what it promises to be. I don’t want to tread on it so badly because it hasn’t been released. Some readers may find it very solid.

  9. alirambles:
    Now I would like to research after the newspapers coverage. :o)

  10. Thanks for your review…even if it didn’t turn out to be one of your favorites, your review was so well-written that I was intrigued and want to give the book a try.

  11. bybee:
    Thank you for your kind words. One of my worst fear is that readers will turn away from a book that didn’t get a positive review. I feel at least I have given it a fair verdict. 🙂

  12. I’ve just received and read the book “My Abandonment,” and I thought it was great. I knew the true story, which left off when the father and daughter disappeared after being on the horse farm, but I like the path Peter Rock takes them after that. I didn’t find the foster family confusing–to me it asked the question of whether she was really his daughter at all or he had just kidnapped her and brainwashed her. I think it’s a good read with some bizarre twists at the end that left a residue.

  13. I just read “My Abandonment” and I really enjoyed it. I love reading true stories and I thought that the way in which it was narrated was very interesting. I liked seeing the world through a 13 year old’s eyes. It made me think a lot about our society and the importance we put on things that are anything but.

  14. I’m almost finished with the book and can say that I get it. More than a story about a lost soul and his daughter and an account of how they do life, it also shows a mentally ill person making the best choices he knows how. I see dignity and unbelievable self-compassion in his story.

    To the original reviewer, I have to question the logic of expecting “common sense” to apply to a person who is sick and a veteran. No person in their right mind would choose what he chose. It’s an incredibly sad reality that this book points to, about our society and it’s inability to chose compassion over harsh judgement and an inability to understand. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the reviewers comments, however, the word “verdict” indicates, perhaps not.

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