How many of us survivors have dreamed or fantasized about our abuser/s giving us (finally!) a complete and honest accounting of their abuse, along with a heartfelt apology?
Many, I suspect.
V (formerly Eve) Ensler (of the Vagina Monologues fame) couldn’t get that apology from her father, who had died 31 years before. So she decided to write it herself.
The resulting book, The Apology, is deeply painful. Written from the perspective of her father in what he believes might be limbo, V’s narrative simultaneously explains what he did to her – not just the sexual assaults, but the decades of mind games as well – and seeks to explain what in his background and psychology set him up to inflict these tortures. The trauma stories are not just the straightforward ones we expect; they also include snapshots of V as a broken child, teenager, and adult, painfully distorted as a result of her father’s actions and inactions.
Why would you want to read such a painful book? You may not; there’s no reason why a trauma survivor should go out of their way to expose themselves to someone else’s trauma narrative.
And yet…painful as it was, I felt compelled to keep reading. V’s psychological autopsy of her father was fascinating. Certainly she touches repeatedly on how her father was shaped by what many of us would call toxic masculinity, but she also addresses the generational traumas her father and she were embedded in. She explores (a little) how family interaction patterns facilitated the abuse. She – using her father’s voice – lays out some of the ways her lifelong struggles were the result of what her father had done to her decades before.
V’s story wasn’t mine by any measure, but parts of it echoed. Some passages made my breath catch as I seemed to see myself in her mirror. Other times, it was the differences that struck me. Either way, I found the book deeply insightful both for its own sake, and for the light it shown on my story.
Choose carefully, and read, if you do, with supports in place.