Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review - Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern

Title: Denial: A Memoir of Terror
Author: Jessica Stern
Year: 2010
Page: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction - Memoir

New to me author? No
Read this author again? No
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Part of Crazy Book Tours - received a copy, then passed it on to the next reviewer

Summary (from
Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighborhood in the suburban town of Concord, MA, two obedient, good girls, Jessica Stern, 15, and her sister, 14, were raped on the night of October 1, 1973. When they reported the crime, the police were skeptical. Their father, away on business, did not return for three more days.

Following the example of her family, Stern—who lost her mother at the age of three—denied her pain and kept striving to achieve. But while her career took off, her success hinged on her symptoms. After her ordeal, she could not feel fear in normally frightening situations. Stern thought she’d disassociated from the trauma altogether, until a request took her back to that night more than 30 years earlier.

The world-class social scientist and expert on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder began her own investigation, with the help of a devoted police lieutenant, to find the truth about her rapist, the town of Concord, her own family, and her own mind. The result is Denial, a candid and deeply intimate look at a life, a trauma, and its aftermath. 

First Sentence:
Chet keeps trying to get me to swim with him.
Why did I pick this book?
I enjoy reading memoir. When I saw that this book was offered as part of the Crazy Books Tour, I signed up immediately. I'd also read good blog reviews about it.

My thoughts:
  • I was so looking forward to this book, and so I was disappointed that I couldn't finish it. I was a psych major in college, so am interested in books dealing with trauma. This book dealt with an emotional topic, and yet, the author seemed quite disconnected or distant from it - now, that was probably how she managed to live through it, and that could well be her defense mechanism, which I guess reflects reality - however, as I reader, I just couldn't connect to her, and felt her pain. 
  • It reminded me of another book I abandoned, on a similar topic, and for the same reason:  Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold. While reading these two books, it felt like i was watching the events through layers of semi-sheer curtains, or dirty glasses, and couldn't quite see and felt frustrated by not being able to feel and see completely.
  • There were other reasons I couldn't read on - it got repetitive. E.g., she mentioned her dad was overseas and didn't fly back - this was mentioned like 5 times at different spots. And I only read 40 pages! I know, this was a big deal to her as she went through her ordeal and thought back about it, but it was just frustrating to read... 
  • There was also a bit about the grandfather that was a bit weird, that I wasn't quite sure if what I read was what I thought she really meant...  so I googled it and another reviewer mentioned this tidbit too and {POTENTIAL SPOILER!!} that nothing more was elaborated on this topic, so why even mentioned it...
  • Disjoint, distant, repetitive... those were the thoughts I jotted down from the 40 pages I read... 
  • Other reviews will be posted here from the tour. If you google, you will find quite a few other reviews - mostly positive from what I read.
    Rating: 0 Star - Did Not Finish

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!


    1. Too bad...I was hoping that this would be a good read!

    2. Oh to bad. I am keeping my memoir list for next year and this was on it. But you and Missy are my trusted memoir reviewers so I will not read it.


    3. You were not alone, I did not like it either.

    4. @Mrs DeRaps - I was hoping it would be a good read too. Did you end up reading it?

      @Marce - I felt bad that I couldn't finish - I think the author was true to her feelings (or lack of), and wrote the way she truly felt. But this emotionless writing really couldn't draw me in... If you could get it from a library, perhaps give it a try since you won't be out of money?

      @Tiffany - thanks for stopping by! Glad that it just wasn't me...