The Kid: A Hard Book To Recommend

I have never struggled so hard to finish a book as I did with The Kid by Sapphire. In fact, it took me a full 3 weeks to read the 370 pages because I could only handle it in small, small doses, like a medicine you know is good for you but tastes awful. This story is not for those with a weak stomach or a weak heart.

The Kid is a sort-of sequel to Push, which was turned into the movie Precious. Having seen the movie, I knew it wasn’t going to be a story about puppies and rainbows, but I still wasn’t prepared for the horrors faced by Precious’s son, Abdul. He is alone in the world by the age of 9, tossed into a system that literally thinks he’s dead for several years and left in the care of people who take advantage of him, abuse him and turn him into an abuser. The language is strong (to say the LEAST) and the descriptions of the sexual abuse incredibly disturbing. Not the light, summer reading I usually choose.

On the one hand, it’s fiction! It is not an autobiography! These things have never happened! Stop worrying so much, Suzanne, and just focus on the beautiful parts, the vivid descriptions and the interesting prose. Despite his struggles -- wow, talk about a totally inadequate word, “struggles” -- Abdul finds something he loves and flourishes as a dancer. It’s an amazing triumph.

But on the other hand, as we learn more about Abdul’s family, we can see that the abuse he suffered started many generations ago, probably even further back than is covered in the story. This is real life for some people. Their parents had, pardon my French, shitty lives, no opportunity to escape and no luck catching a break. They’ve been kept down by poverty, crime, rape, disease, racism, abuse, depression, mental illness... just about every single awful thing that can happen in a life time. I cannot pass those facts off as fiction, no matter how much my brain would like to disconnect from that reality. All I can do is hug my kids a little tighter and thank God I was lucky enough to be born into a much more privileged life.

In the end, I cannot say I am sorry I read The Kid. It is an amazing book. But I would hesitate to recommend it to anyone else.

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