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A story you will want to believe did not happen told with devastating honesty.
B o o k R e v i e w
by Phyllis Jean Green for Angels That Care
Richard B. Pelzer, A Brother's Journey, Warner Books, NY: Time Warner, 2005
It is not often that I am at a loss for words. Yet weeks after finishing A Brother's Journey, I am struggling to find a way to describe the horror and sorrow the story evokes. Ordinary terms feel wrong. Children were tortured. Many of us were abused as children. Children are routinely burned with cigarettes, battered black and blue, and told they are stupid and in the way. Richard Pelzer and his brothers -- especially David, or “IT,” as their mother insisted he be called -- were treated to worse. Day after day, night after night, month after month, year after year. Think I am exaggerating, picture a child on the floor eating excrement because his mother is threatening to kill him if he fails to obey. Picture a child chained in a basement, more than half naked. Other crimes occurred that I cannot bear to repeat.
Horror is not strong enough.
Monster is not too weak. I do not use the term lightly. Like most people, I like to pretend monsters are not real. That they only exist in fairy tales and horror films. We know unspeakable things go on behind closed doors, but we are scared to think about them. They might make us question what it is to be human. When we are forced to acknowledge that monsters exist, self-protection sends us into fight-or-flight mode. What we can't forget or cover over, we work to explain. The monster's parents were probably monsters. An unusual type of brain damage occurred, or compassion was beaten out. These things happen. But the fact is, there is a great deal of evidence that monsters are often born that way. No one knows why. It is possible that no one ever will.
Horror is definitely not strong enough.
Anger. Revulsion. Fear. Loathing.
Only a robot or a rock could fail to cringe at the extreme and unrelenting punishment the author's drunken and often hysterical mother heaped on him and his brothers. IT. Think starvation, think hidden from school authorities. Having your identity stripped away. Shrieking, berating, ridiculing, humiliating, shaming. Evil stalked in shape of a woman. Swooped down suddenly for no reason. David lived to tell his story before he passed away. We will never know how much it took out of him. A loving wife helped his brother Richard rescue himself. Mind you, it took years.
Good news--? Samaritans vastly outnumber monsters. If they can’t perform miracles, an astounding number come close. All have the courage to try.
Why would anyone read a story such as this?
For the courage.
Courage shines through on every page.
I think we all know there are different kinds. There is the kind that enables a person to conquer physical challenges. Astronaut Neil Armstrong's heart had to be going a mile a minute when he climbed in a space capsule headed for the moon. How many of us think about climbing Mt. Everest or sailing a small boat around the world? That kind of courage is rare. The kind author Richard Pelzer managed to find in himself is rarer. More precious and lasting than the finest diamond. While we are basking in its glow, we forget for once that monsters are out there. It is one thing to ride a motorcycle over parked cars. It is quite another to open a vein and pour heart, blood, and soul onto paper or stand in front of a crowd of people and say, I was in hell. I stayed a long time. I was so scared and mixed-up that fell under the devil's spell. Even served as her aide from time to time. Nevermind that I had no choice. Ragged remnants of guilt and shame will keep trying to trip me, I know. For a long time, I let them throw me. Now, thanks to my wonderful family, I may stumble, but will not fall. Knowing people who read my story want to lend support is putting more steel in my spine and joy in my heart.
Knowing I will never have to go back.
The author held it all in for years. He was close to breaking down when in a moment of pure desperation, he tearfully confided in his wife. To her everlasting credit, she listened without judging. Went on to help Richard fight his demons to the ground. Guilt, fear, and hate had torn at him as long as he could remember. Dogged his every step. She helped him see that he had to open the wounds so they could drain. He must not let them fester. He must not hold anything back. It was all or nothing time. Not just as a way of healing himself and as a apologetic tribute to his brother David, but to gain anti-abuse support and encourage more people to shelter children who had fallen in harm’s way. What took so much bravery was telling the story. What took the bravery to a whole new level was telling it straight. Unlock that door and throw it open. Admit you cooperated with the monster to the point that you yourself were in danger of becoming like her, Richard. Helped her torture others. Your own brother!
Yes, you were terrified. Yes, you had been in the throes of the symptoms that inevitably plague victims. SHE made it very plain that you would become the "whipping boy" if you didn't go along. In time, in fact, that is exactly what happened. Poor David, who had always been the target of the worst abuse, was belatedly removed by social workers (who turned a blind eye where you were concerned). Guess who became target number one.
Writing this book was the act of a loving and caring person. One who knows he is cherished. Who has earned the privilege. A vital part of a circle of love that is widening like the circle a well-thrown pebble creates in a stream. The sun is shining now. People are watching. Asking questions and nodding their heads. Richard, I hope the sun shines for you all the rest of your days. You are making such a difference.
If he can bear to write more, it might help to know more about the mother's background. She is described as having been a socialite. Later in the book, we learn that her relationship with her mother was flawed. How flawed was it, you have to wonder. Why? Was there a crucial turning point? For most of us, there is. Is it possible she could have turned out well, had circumstances been different? The father was barely in the picture. It would be good to know more about him. What were previous generations like? Knowing what causes people to harm themselves and others may not prevent recurrence. But it can't hurt. It is not a perfect world that we live in. Still, there are cultures where monsters appear to be unknown. Where kindness rules, and respect. Where vulnerability is not an invitation to attack. We need to know more. Education is so often key. Books such as A Brother's Journey go miles toward opening our eyes and strengthening our resolve. Let us hope they inspire other victims to come forward. Maybe their parents will come forward. Maybe we will be able to help.
So many questions. So few answers.
So much pain.
Strength, courage, compassion.
I hope you will read the book. If will leave you shocked and disturbed, it is true . You will also find yourself looking harder for signs that children are in trouble.
Phyllis Jean Green
Angels That Care
Reader Reviews for
"Review of A Brother's Journey by Richard Pelzer"
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|Reviewed by Katrina Olsen (Reader)
|Hi, great read. Your wording is phenomenal.
There was just one part you wrote about the brother David..
"David lived to tell his story before he passed away. We will never know how much it took out of him."
But i do believe to this day, David is still alive. July 2010.
|Reviewed by donald jeo
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|Reviewed by Bob Dickons (Reader)
|Okay, I just finished reading A Child Called "IT" by David Pelzer, and I had to make a list of books I thought I might want to read for school and stuff and this book was on it. So when I finish the book, I'm thinking, "Pelzer... that name sounds familiar somehow..." So I go back and look at the list, and then it's like, "Wait a minute! wasn't one of David's brother's names Richard?" Anyway, after reading A Child Called "IT", I'm anxious to read this one as well. Um, yeah, I'm kind of a bookworm type of guy, but hey, I like to read. There's nothing wrong in that, is there?|
|Reviewed by Debra Conklin
|Personally, as much as I've wanted to read these books in the past, I can never bring myself to do it. Having suffered through an abusive childhood myself, I find myself to emotionally close to the subjects to read the books objectively or even dispassionately. I become too angered and enraged at the injustice of abuse to continue reading. To me, it's not just a book, it's a life.|
|Reviewed by laura callahan
|hey I really want to know if Richard and David ever talk, they have been though so much as children, and I was wondering if anyone knows if they keep in touch! I love these books, makes me look for things in childrens lives that might show a sign, im more observant to things like that now, im reading Richards book now, I had no idea that Davids brother had a book till we moved in to a new house and i found it!|
|Reviewed by Phyllis Jean Green
|Kylie is right! Happily, David Pelzer is very much alive.
I found references to his death, but like the saying goes, "they were
exaggerated." I apologize for the error! I should have done more research! Richard Pelzer's publcist
wrote a favorable review of my review. Makes me feel a l i t t l e
better that she didn't notice I goofed.
Thank you, Kylie. I hope you are able to read through to the end. SO
Blessings to all!
|Reviewed by Kylie Patrick (Reader)
|I have read David Pelzers books and currently have 'A Brothers Journey' on order. I was deeply affected by Davids books and it makes me so scared for the kids currently going through this that havent been rescued yet. I hope their lives dont end in tragedy. Just a question about your review. You say that David Pelzer passed away but I can not find any other reference to his death anywhere & was wondering if maybe you had gotten mixed up. Could you verify if it is infact true.|
|Reviewed by m j hollingshead
|excellent review, not sure i'm up to the book|
|Reviewed by Joyce Hale
|I understand what you are saying, Pea. I read two of Dave Pelzer's books, A Child called It and A Man named Dave. The first one was a horror story, as you have reviewed, and the second was a tribute to the human soul. I didn't realize his brother had written a book also. Very good review.
|Reviewed by Dale Curtin (Reader)
|"Review of A Brother's Journey by Richard Pelzer". Richard after meeting ang talking with you at the Port Inn by the Pool, I went online and looked up your Novel as I said I would. I was greatly moved by the content of the storyline and wanted to pass my gladness, that you were able to channel the negative events from the past into such a rewarding and positive experience for your readers. So they may get a look at some of the experiences that abused children go through, and is hard to really appreciate the content not having to endure such brutality. So I extend Blessings upon you and thank you for the short touch you bought into my life through our brief encounter, keep writing and tell that beautiful support and companion of yours your wife, to keep working on her nursing as she will also go far. Respectfuly, Dale|
|Reviewed by Marcia Duning (Reader)
|Yes the picture did, Pod
Phyllis did a wonderful job with a very difficult subject
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|i want to read this book, but i was unable to read your review; gthe pic took up most of it! LOL still, i bet you liked it; i know i would. i love david pelzer's books!
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in tx., karen lynn. :D
Phyllis Jean Green