Reaching is Grace Peterson’s bold and revealing memoir of spiritual abuse stands as a testament to all the genre is capable of accomplishing. In nearly claustrophobic prose, the author recounts the parental neglect of her most formative years. This allows her to set the scene for how she would later avail herself to seeking help from the cult-like leader of her church.
It takes a brave soul to recount the number of abuses the author endured while growing up. Peterson creates a distant tone by referring to her parents as “the mother” and “the father.” Their divorce results in Grace and her siblings moving to Hawaii to live with their mother and the eventual stepfather. Grace is bullied by the local children and longs to make friends. It’s also revealed she was sexually abused by a neighborhood boy before she moved. Grace later returns to Oregon to live with her father, but her situation never really improves.
It’s agonizing to see how self-centered most of the adults are in this book, but it’s a truth that needs to be told. In a world that often lives by the saying, “Don’t worry, be happy,” this memoir shows just how deep some emotional scars go when it comes to trying to live a balanced life. I really enjoyed Peterson’s tactic of describing her surroundings as opposed to her feelings. Memories often form in relation to our physical environment, and the author excels in rendering memory this way.
About a fourth of Reaching centers around Grace’s struggle in her thirties to come to terms with what she decides is demonic possession. Even though she gives herself over to extreme thoughts, she never comes off as overly disturbed. That’s the beauty and the emotional kicker of the book. We all struggle in our different ways, and our sense of normalcy is a direct reflection of the many influences in our lives.
I expected more of a complete picture to form of the relationship between her and Brock. The narrative remained a bit distant when it needed time to grow more contemplative and detailed Much is left out regarding her relationship with her husband and children as well. Thankfully, after years of thinking about it, Grace sees a real therapist and begins to come to grips with her feelings.
As someone who grew up with a mentally ill parent, I truly appreciate this book and applaud Grace for sharing her story with the world.
What do you look for in a good memoir?
You can connect with Grace Peterson and her social sites via her blog. Her book as well as other memoirs I’ve enjoyed can be found on Amazon.
For more insight, read my Book Review Criteria. Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2014.