March 2010, Allison and Busby
274 pages, Paperback
Paperclips: 4 (instances of child abuse)
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Summary from Allison and Busby
Nominated for the prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction.
Unlike anything you will have read before...
Meet Hester. A child of dark beginnings and few words. Living a painfully sheltered existence forced upon her by reclusive parents, Hester befriends the inanimate objects in her sheltered life: Cat, Broom, Handle and Axe all speak to her, urging Hester to go out into the world and enjoy the rich experience of life.
When Hester's parents are forced to send her to school, the little girl is overjoyed at meeting children her own age, and making her first real friend - Mary. But her pleasure is cruelly taken away from her and she returns to the overwhelming oppressiveness of home. But no one can stop Hester from growing up and it is when innocence becomes experience that she finds the strength to take action. All she has endured in her short life culminates in a climatic moment that will change her life forever.
There are two things which caught my eye before I read this book. First off, it is the front cover. To me the girl looks really happy, no cares in the world, nothing can touch her. This is half true for Hester. Her parents not quite normal personalities - especially her mother's - leads Hester to live in her own little bubble. The way she creates friends with objects broke my heart. I wanted her to have real friends (she does gain one by the end). It also shows how intelligent Hester is.
It takes a lot of imagination to create objects/voices/scenarios which aren't there. All writers possess this talent. Hester isn't a writer, but she keeps herself preoccupied most of the day. This imagination is used to the full when she is abused by her mother (by being ignored and physically punished for things which weren't her fault. This is a case of religion being taken too far). Then there is the abuse by her father, which is rape. But Hester's sweet, innocent mind doesn't realise this. She doesn't like it, and engages in coping mechanisms. One day, that coping mechanism breaks.
It breaks on purpose. Hester decides in her own child-like way when she's a lot older than at the beginning of the book to teach her parents a lesson. Although the lesson is harsh and horrifying to read, I understand why Hester does it. A branch bent too far will break. Normally it isn't a clean break, there are jagged edges. I was relieved that Hester (as far as I can tell) doesn't get caught and is able to pursue the happiness in life that she deserves.
(I've just realised I've reviewed most of the book without revealing the second thing which caught my eye. It's Sofie's surname, Laguna. It's the name of a character in Final Fantasy 8! (Yes, that was random)).
What really makes One Foot Wrong such a powerful read isn't necessarily the subject matter. It's Hester's voice. It is like nothing I've read before. The reader really sees everything from view. Her thoughts are out there, on the page. I worked out a lot of what was going on to Hester, even though she didn't have the words to summarise the situation. She didn't need those words. Her emotions are powerful, making me reach for a tissue on many occasions.
I don't like what her parents did to her. I think her mother might have something wrong with her mentally. As for her father - there is no excuse. None whatsover.
This isn't a light read by any means, but it was an insight in Hester's world, a reminder of how some people are living in the world. I highly recommend it.