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My AbandonmentReview - My Abandonment
by Peter Rock
Blackstone Audio, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 1st 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 49)

As you start to read My Abandonment, you wonder in what way 13-year-old Caroline has been abandoned.  She spends her whole time with Father, living mostly in the Forest Park outside of Portland, Oregon.  She does not go to school, but he teachers her and she reads an encyclopedia and a dictionary.  They live in hiding from the rest of society in a secret den, spending their days scavenging metal and growing their own vegetables.  They sleep in the same bed to keep warm, and of course this makes you wonder what Caroline is not saying.  You wonder what happened to her mother and why they are so careful not to be seen by anyone else. 

You start to learn more about Father, who is deeply suspicious of strangers and has a mysterious past.  He seems to be a war veteran, and he has nightmares involving helicopters.  Father and Caroline talk to just a few other people who live in the Park, but Caroline is starting to want to make new friends.  Her main companion apart from Father is a plastic horse called Randy who she carries around with her everywhere.  Randy has a little hole in him and Caroline puts some of her deepest secrets on paper and into that hole, to make sure that she never forgets. 

My Abandonment is an intriguing and dark work.  Father is a complex character, who believes knowledge is very important, and takes Caroline to the Library frequently.  He teaches her consideration for other people and is a good companion.  It does not seem that he is abusive to her in any way.  Yet he is also a very strange man, and you don't know why he wants to keep their existence a secret from the rest of the world.  As Caroline becomes an adolescent, the idea of keeping her isolated from the rest of the world seems increasingly unrealistic, yet it is not clear what Father's plans are.

The truth eventually comes out, but not until a bizarre string of events that make for a gripping story.  Rock paints a picture of an alternative existence set apart from the reality most of us are familiar with.  We come to identify strongly with Caroline, and we expect that once she has the ability to join the rest of humanity in the regular world, she will want to do so.  When she does not do so, we start to understand that she is more like Father than we imagined, and it makes  us see in a new light the supposedly obvious attractions of our own lives compared to the survivalist isolation of theirs.

I hadn't read any writing by Peter Rock previously, but My Abandonment is one of the most impressive and memorable novels I have read this year.  The performance of the unabridged audiobook by Tai Sammons is subdued and believable -- not an easy task when taking on the job of a book narrated by a strange young teen girl.  Highly recommended. 

 

© 2009 Christian Perring         

           

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.

 


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