Author: Margaux Fragoso
Genre/Age: Memoir, non-fiction, adult
When Margaux is 7 years old, she meets 51 year old Peter one day at the neighborhood swimming pool. They become fast friends, and Margaux’s mentally ill mother is delighted that Margaux has found a friend and father figure, as Margaux’s own father is verbally abusive. When Peter brings them to his home, they are delighted to find many animals from guinea pigs to alligators, and together, Margaux and Peter create imaginary story worlds in which Margaux is often a tiger. It seems like a child’s dream, but soon, Peter’s manipulation and mental illness become apparent, as he begins to sexually abuse Margaux in secret, and claims to be in love with her. He hangs photos of her in his room and has numerous photo albums of her. He soon becomes Margaux’s whole world too – her best friend, her father, and worst of all, her lover. He remains the biggest figure in her life until she is 22 years old and he commits suicide. For 15 years, he had a hold on Margaux’s life, and stole away her childhood for his own twisted wants and “needs.”
This memoir is very disturbing, as you may have gathered, but it was beautifully written and hard to put down or stop thinking about. While the book centers on the twisted relationship between Peter and Margaux, it is also the story of Margaux’s childhood and horrible family life. Margaux was already on the verge of losing her childhood when she meets Peter, and he is the one who finally whisks it away from her. Prior to meeting Peter, and during their relationship, we see the sad dynamics between her parents. Her mother is in and out of mental hospitals, and her father, an alcoholic, is constantly berating both Margaux and her mom. It seems logical that Margaux would welcome another adult into her life, as she desperately needs a parental figure. Peter seems to sense this need. To Margaux, he really seems to care about her, and she relishes in that, but his true nature is quickly revealed. Margaux, naive and only 7 years old, is easily manipulated by the conniving Peter. Somehow, he keeps her in his life until she is 22 years old. Even as a young woman, she feels a desperate need to be with Peter who has completely brainwashed her and stolen her innocence.
It is just disturbing to think that a grown man could shatter a child’s life like this, because he knows he has the power, control, and influence to do so. Are there really people like this in the world? Yes, there are, and Margaux’s memoir is the first I’ve read of its kind, in which she reveals so much about her attacker without ever attacking him. I wonder if, even in death, he still has some sort of twisted hold on her. Sometimes, while reading, I just wished that she would start spewing hatred for him, but she never did, except when they were fighting (and their fights would often get very violent).
I can’t really say I recommend this book to anyone because it is highly disturbing and repulsive. At the same time, I do think this is an important issue to talk about in our society and something that happens all too often. There are many forms of child abuse, and this is one of them. I admire Margaux’s bravery in sharing her story, but often wondered how she could remember such exact details from when she was only a child. As you can see, this book is very difficult to review and talk about, but sometimes, those are the exact things we need to talk about and recognize before anything can ever get better. If you enjoy memoirs, are not too “faint of heart,” and want to take a glimpse into something that is a huge problem in our world, then read this memoir. If you’ve read other memoirs of child abuse, then this is an important one for you to read.
How do I rate this book? I really don’t know. If we’re going on writing and readability, I’d give this a 4/5.