Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison

The Kiss 
by Kathryn Harrison

Summary: We meet at airports. We meet in cities where we've never been before. We meet where no one will recognize us. 

A "man of God" is how someone described my father to me. I don 't remember who. Not my mother. I'm young enough that I take the words to mean he has magical properties and that he is good, better than other people.

With his hand under my chin, my father draws my face toward his own. He touches his lips to mine. I stiffen.
I am frightened by the kiss. I know it wrong, and its wrongness is what lets me know, too, that it is a secret.
This book was really -- well, disturbing to read, I guess that's the best way to put it. It wasn’t even so much about the subject matter (incest), but the way it happened. Her father was so manipulative and the majority of the relationships in the characters life were so unhealthy… reading about it was just strange, unsettling.

I guess it’s probably because she wasn’t a character. The people in the book weren’t just characters.

I don’t read memoirs often, preferring to stick with the land of fiction, but I am glad I read this one.

She had an interesting life, that’s for sure. Her life wasn’t easy and it wasn’t happy and it was most definitely screwed up right from the start… but reading about it, reading her reflection of everything that happened to her was weirdly fascinating. Reading it, it was like reading her trying to make sense of her life instead of her telling a story and we get to take that journey with her.

I think the writing was what kept me hooked. I really liked the way it was written (not just the way she strings words together, but the way it would jump from her childhood to her teens to when she was an adult and back again -- scattered memories, not always following a linear path but still easy enough to follow).

I’m not sure if I’d recommend the book or not, it’s kind of a judgement call you’ll have to make on your own (based on whether you can handle the incest factor and if you like memoirs and stuff like that). I’m reluctant to say it was a “good” book, because of what it’s about and the whole disturbed feeling it left me with but it definitely wasn't a bad book.



  1. wow sounds like a difficult read

  2. I read this one too, and while the subject matter is taboo, the writing was mesmerizing and I couldn't put it down. What was so shocking about her story was that her family knew what was going on and ignored it (maybe this is more common than I think).

    I know what you mean about recommending the book. I loaned it to a coworker and she read the entire book, but she kept asking me, "Just what kind of books do you read?" - I guess I read the same books that she would read, since she read it too. It draws you in, when at times you may not want it to, it happens.

    Great review, maybe a few more people will check out this book.

  3. I took a NonFiction lit class last semester, and we read a portion of the book in there. I was so disturbed. I think the incest was definitely too much for me to read. Plus, the characters (at least the mother) wasn't very likable or interesting. I was surprised you read this, actually. (or perhaps just surprised you reviewed it.)



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