Katie, the twelve-year-old protagonist and narrator, lives with her sister, Diane, and their father, a military man with a violent temper, on a military base in Texas. She remembers their mother, now dead, as a kind, gentle presence, able to temper their father's violence, though Katie begins to realize that the mother had also lived in apprehension of his outbreaks.

The story develops Katie's strategies for coming to terms with the loss of her mother, the fact that her mother never succeeded in protecting her from her father's violence, and eventually the loss of her sister who runs away. She begins to learn how to negotiate with her father and seek and receive nurture both from others and from herself.


The portrait of early adolescence this book presents is realistic, touching, and tough-minded. Berg manages not to present Katie simply as a victim, but as someone who has some decisions to make about when to seek help, how to help herself, what she can do something about and what she can't. Though its focus is on an adolescent girl, it doesn't exactly fit the genre of the young adult novel.

Still it would be useful for girls living in situations that might be defined as psychologically abusive. The level of physical abuse in the book is not extreme, but the fear of a parent's violent temper is quite authentic. It offers no particular solutions to such problems, but a helpful representation of what it might mean to begin to take possession of your own life.



Place Published

New York



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