Some memoirs recount riveting stories. Others are exceptional for their masterful storytelling. Debora Harding’s Dancing With the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crime accomplishes each. She has now not one however mesmerizing stories to tell, and the emotional honesty of her razor-sharp prose will hook readers on web page one.
In 1978, when Harding became 14, she became kidnapped at knifepoint from her church parking lot in Omaha, Nebraska, raped, held for ransom and left to die all through an ice storm. The young teen displayed mind-blowing resilience within the face of this kind of brutal attack. Ironically, her calm, measured reaction can also were bolstered via the ongoing physical and emotional abuse she and her sisters endured at home from their mother. Harding had already developed sturdy survival instincts in the face of violence.
Decades after her assault, Harding determined to visit the prison where her attacker, Charles Goodwin, a repeat violent offender, changed into incarcerated. “I desired to rid my brain of the photograph of that ski masks and notice the human with the eyes,” she writes. In the years leading up to this face-to-face moment, she also tried to reconcile her relationship with her parents—her personal forgiving, highbrow nature aided by using a supportive husband, therapists and medicine. Ultimately, however, “trying to emotionally hook up with Mom . . . turned into like looking to repair a broken cup with an empty glue stick.” Meanwhile, she wrestled with how plenty she cherished her father however couldn’t ignore the truth that he had buried his head in the sand even as his spouse abused Harding and her siblings.
With great perception, Dancing With the Octopus suggests how, day by way of day, yr by way of year, both her crook attack and family dysfunction left Harding with a lifetime of consequences, inclusive of seizures, PTSD and depression. One of the book’s tremendous strengths is how artfully Harding lays out the details of her multifaceted story, weaving inside and outside of time as an alternative than counting on a chronological timetable.
Dancing With the Octopus begs to be as compared to other exemplary bad-mom books, inclusive of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle. It’s completely one-of-a-kind from Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance but is similarly compelling. Ultimately, though, Harding’s memoir is particular and unforgettable, supplying a mess of insights which can be as harrowing as they are uplifting and wise.