Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: House Rules

House Rules by Rachel Sontag
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Bond Street Books, April 1 2008
304 pages

From Goodreads:

A compelling, at times horrifying work that is impossible to put down, House Rules will stand beside Running With Scissors and The Glass Castle as a memoir that cracks open the shell of a desperately dysfunctional family with impressive grace and humour.
Rachel Sontag grew up the daughter of a well-liked doctor in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago. The view from outside couldn't have been more perfect. But within the walls of the family home, Rachel's life was controlled and indeed terrorized by her father's serious depression. In prose that is both precise and rich, Rachel's childhood experience unfolds in a chronological recounting that shows how her father became more and more disturbed as Rachel grew up.
A visceral and wrenching exploration of the impact of a damaged psyche on those nearest to him, House Rules will keep you reading even when you most wish you could look away.

When I saw this book in the young adult section of Barnes and Noble it caught my interest. Many of my students in the library often request A child Called It. I was expecting this to be similar but with more of a focus on mental/emotional abuse. Rachel Sontag's father was a sick man who regularly subjected his daughter to mental cruelty. What I found most interesting about this memoir was Rachel's mother's role in the dysfunctional home. Mrs. Sontag clearly saw what was going on in her house and the fact that Rachel was her husband's regular target of abuse. Her mother wasn't just a bystander watching the train wreck that was her daughter and husband's relationship. Rachel's mother lashed out at her daughter too. A memorable moment in the book was when divorce papers arrived in the mail and Rachel's mother attacked her brutally when she arrived home. Rachael often relied on her quick wit when in the midst of her father's abuse...if the situation hadn't been so sickening you would have laughed at the things she said. I wouldn't consider this memoir a young adult book...there was too much language and sexual content. I think it would be appropriate for an older high school student. After reading this book I've decided I would like to read Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas. It's a fiction, young adult book about a girl who lives in a physically abusive house by isn't the one to receive the physical abuse. It should be an interesting perspective.


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