A survivor sets himself free
Author, Editor and owner of the highly acclaimed booksite RebeccasReads.Com
What happens when the soul of a child is held prisoner in a childhood of parental abuse, where the weird comes to be normal?
It's not so much the soul of this young boy that was held captive, unless you equate emotions with the soul. Donald's mind, as a child, certainly was being imprinted by his elders, and they were not only in his father's home. It is, however, in Donald's childhood homes, where Papa merely ate, slept and vented his spleen and his unfettered sexual proclivities, that Donald's mind learns to split when his father's attention turns on him.
Donald D'Haene is the first author I've read who recounts his transformation with sessions of mental therapy. We so readily rush to doctors to heal our flesh, and clergymen to heal our soul, yet when it comes to healing our minds, we are way behind the times. Since using the services of a community health organization myself, and knowing how useful and healing they can be, I do not remember another book in which we can see how it works. As a Children's Advocate for a Domestic Violence Prevention Program, I was witness to the many, many times wounded children took much comfort and strength from those weekly sessions where they were the center of one other incorruptible adult's world, in a safe, unchanging, trustworthy place, where they found their voices and themselves.
It wasn't until Donald was almost an adult that he read an Ann Lander's letter, and realized that what the father of their childhood had done to him and his siblings was illegal by the laws of the land. Even if, for years, the elders of his religion, didn't think so - reprehensible, yes; a sin, undoubtedly; illegal? The thought didn't enter their minds because the law was for people who lived in the world, and Donald's parents' religion was based on keeping themselves apart from that sinfilled populace.
It is to be remembered that Donald D'Haene's childhood was back in the Good Old Days, when there were no agencies to help victims of domestic abuse, and mental health therapists who knew how to help such victims, were few and far between.
Donald's unholy, self-righteous father, turned his family into a cult, both religiously and [dys]functionally. He subjugated his spouse by isolating her from other women, from shopping, driving, and any form of entertainment. By prohibiting her to care for her appearance, allowing her no beauty aids or health care of any kind. He kept her prisoner with ignorance of the land to which they had emigrated, his sexual dominance, poverty and frequent moves of the family tent. Donald's mother, while a tower of love and stability for her children, was the target of her husband's misogyny and vilest moods. At first she fought back and was so soundly thrashed, she quit and turned into the perfect, obsequious, terrified, ill-kempt, ill-healthed, brain-washed wife. Notwithstanding that, she kept her children fed, clean and dressed as best she could.
As this despot manipulated his fiefdom, his wife bore him three sons and a daughter. While they lived exemplary lives in the meeting halls of their religion, behind the walls of the many houses to which they moved, life was entirely different.
Father's Touch by Donald D'Haene, is the second son's story of one family's life when the man of the house becomes an ogre. Ahead of Donald is big brother Ronny. Behind him came Marina, his adored sister, and Erik. This youngest brother is outspoken, outgoing and untamable from the gitgo. This is the brother who first lets the cat out of the bag by defying his father's advances and breaking the silence about The Game Daniel D'Haene had been playing for years with his older children.
That is when the children learn they all know how to play The Game, and their lives will never be the same. It will get worse. As their father's control unravels, he desperately tries to talk himself out of any responsibility. His second son begins to put the pieces together, begins to think for himself, begins to see a horizon. That's not to say the abuse lessens or stops when the father is faced with an outraged wife and four furious children. Rather the father's tyranny takes on a more sinister hue. He stalks his children.
Donald D'Haene could have written a dire and dark, interminable, unendurable litany of misery. He could have, however, he didn't, because he has an irrepressible authentic optimism, a enviable faith in his god, and one of the stubbornest streaks known to man. While all about are losing their heads, this second son learns to evolve, to blend into the scenery, to walk alone and to think and write his thoughts.
Lucky for us he did, because without Donald D'Haene's particular voice telling his particular story, this world would be a little less wonderful. He has woven together flashbacks, journal entries, conversations with his partner, and records of his sessions with his counselor, into a tapestry that tells the story of one boy's peril in the presence of his father, and his long and winding road to healing, happiness and maturity.
All in all, Donald D'Haene's Father's Touch ... is a lusty, forthright and engrossing read. I was ....incensed and frustrated .... [reading the court transcript] to see their father's cunning once again, trump his children. By pleading guilty to a lesser charge of indecency, he avoids a trial at which all his dirty deeds would have been aired, while the anguish each of his children and his wife went through in telling their story to the authorities, goes unheard.
Father's Touch has it all: ebullience, sex, anger, fear, poverty, survival, insightfulness, frustration and perhaps the most important, the love of telling a story. Donald D'Haene's writing, like the notice on the side mirrors of your car: "Objects are closer than they appear," is engaging. This author skilfully carries you along, rushes you into big thoughts, and vivid descriptions of the obstacles before him. It leaves you gasping with outrage, empathy and the sheer joy of reading.
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