Reaching: A Memoir

‘Reach for the stars, but if you want success, you have to reach for the moon.’

Review by Grady Harp

Grace Peterson has achieved more stature as a writer in this short memoir REACHING that many other authors far more experienced in the field of writing. In short, this is an astonishingly well-sculpted book that reveals Peterson to be a wordsmith on a par with the finest. This is not meant to negate the importance of the message of the book: this is one lf the most sincerely penetrating memoirs of a child’s journey through a jungle of problems to reach adulthood and become a symbol of the growth that is possible even in the most impossible of histories. In art this is called Form Follows Function, and a finer compliment for a book, especially a memoir, could not be made.

The path Grace Peterson treads from early childhood to her present state as one who has recovered from mental health impairments and religious/spiritual abuse should not be summarized, as attempting to simplify her journey diminishes the steps she has taken. But if that is needed, the provided synopsis justifies repeating: ‘Grace’s turbulent childhood, with father’s violent temper and mother’s apathy, their divorce, and her relocation with her mother and siblings to Hawaii, where she experiences racism and violence, sets the stage for this incredible real-life tale of abuse, brainwashing, and ~ ultimately ~ the long journey to recovery. At seventeen, Grace experiences love for the first time, but is soon unable contain the traumas of her past. Seeking a remedy from what she perceives as a spiritual problem, she enlists the aid of Brock, a charismatic exorcist and cult expert. Grace stumbles into a world of esoteric rituals, Luciferian doctrines, and New World Order conspiracies. This gripping narrative illustrates how children adapt to a hostile environment, can grow up misreading their untreated traumas, and, while searching for answers, fall prey to unscrupulous charlatans who heap more damage onto an already wounded soul.’ So that satisfies the reader who must know the flow of the book.

What makes this memoir so compelling is the language – the sensitive act of assigning generic terms to the people with whom she needed to be close – ‘the mean grandparents’, the ‘nice grandparents’, the ‘scary uncle’, even ‘the mother’ and ‘the father’ – a technique that takes away their humanistic role and replaces it with the object of a terrifying game. Peterson knows how to describe the many instances of sexual abuse suffered as a child without drawing focus to the acts instead sharing the psychological response of a little girl who is unable to communicate ‘scary stuff’. ‘Demon possession or mental illness? My descent into cult extremism and recovery’ is how she expresses it on her .com page.

But that is enough to say about a book that is indelibly imprinted on this reader’s mind. My recommendation is to read this book, incorporate the heroism, and then read it again for the immaculate brilliance of the writing. Grace Peterson is extraordinary.

Grady Harp, November 2013

TITLE: REACHING: A MEMOIR
AUTHOR: GRACE PETERSON
PUBLISHER: ALL THINGS THAT MATTER PRESS
ISBN: 9780989403207

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