by Donald D'Haene
Paperback: 340 pages
American Book Publishing; ISBN: 1589821122; (July 2002)
The black text on the pages of Father's Touch by Donald D'Haene poignantly lays bare the heart of darkness that is child sexual abuse. This first-person narrative captivates the reader through its honesty and its careful, yet authentic, use of flashbacks. The story itself is framed within the physical and emotional return home of the primary character, Donald.
Home for Donald is not just a town set against a pastoral landscape - it is also a past. His history is rooted in the repugnance of incest. It is this history that he relives for the sake of the reader. In fact, he writes, "[t]he more I speak or write about my family history, the more unreal it becomes. Those listening to or reading my words may well experience an emotional response to my story I can only envy." Touching his own memories becomes easier for the reader, than for the author himself, "[b]ecause I am not connected to their reality, they seem foreign to me - as though I am experiencing someone else's memories. At times, these flashbacks paralyze, shock, frighten, or sadden me . . . . only a trained and knowing eye can see through my controlled exterior."
His memories are nearly personified "the reader begins to feel as though these memories, initially undefined, have a life of their own" as though they have been born of a man and a woman. This is a portion of D'Haene's gift to invite and envelope the reader into an intimate and often, secluded realm of the human mind and the physical text. From this beginning stems his unreal truth. D'Haene plays with the concept of an illusory certainty throughout his novel
To bring the paradox of an illusory certainty to fruition, D'Haene often juxtaposes contrasting images; such as the purity of a bucolic setting and the vivid incestuous scenes between a father and his son; and, that of a mother in the kitchen, wearing an apron adorned with verses from the Bible while a father, her husband, plays The Game with their son in an upstairs bedroom. Religion versus bad acts and innocence versus awakening are the subtexts, which shadow D'Haene's work.
D'Haene succeeds in conveying the how and why a three and half year old child perceives The Game as normal. Perhaps what is most striking is the fact that Donald, neither the author, nor the character, presents his childhood, a term to use loosely, with any hatred. Instead, the reader is lead into the sinister mind of the father much like the child. Donald describes himself as existing in three parts - as three personalities, as a result of his splintered childhood. For him, "[a]cting out a variety of roles is definitely more comfortable than deciding which Donald I might want to be."
As an adult, all three Donalds struggle with a sense of identity. When asked if he is heterosexual or homosexual - Donald doesn't know the answer. It would be incorrect for the reader to assume the question is, "are you gay or straight?" - to use the argot. Donald is being asked to define his sexuality - to define who he is in every sense of the word. His discovery of self is slowly stolen. We, as readers, have witnessed the crime - Donald D'Haene now permits us to experience the effects with him - for like him, we don't know the answer.
There is a fourth Donald that is also present - Donald, the author. It is apparent that even if the reader were to ignore the introduction to the novel, he/she would readily recognize that Father's Touch can only come from the mind and life with one who has lived it - from a true survivor. It is this realism that compels the reader to wade into the text and once finished, to never let it go.
To purchase a copy of Father's Touch visit: Father's Touch
More information can also be found at D'Haene's website: www.fatherstouch.com
About the Reviewer: Victoria Douglas heads a dynamic team of marketing and communications professionals who are client team builders and results focused. Victoria holds a B.A. in English Literature, French Literature, and a Minor in Philosophy; and, an M.A. in French Literature. The requirements for her degree in English Literature were completed at Oxford University. Her website can be found at www.barracudacommunications.net