Sunday, January 20, 2013

♥♥♥♥♥: Arms Akimbo by Audrey Roth

Arms Akimbo
Audrey Roth

Page Count: 320

Release Date: 15 April 2010
Publisher: Wheatmark
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author, via LibraryThing, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Arms Akimbo captures one woman's journey toward healing and wholeness as she struggles to overcome the damage caused by childhood sexual abuse.

Over the course of three years, Audrey Roth kept a journal of her fears, rage, grief, and love as she faced her demons, the ghost of her father, and her seeming inability to be fully present for her beloved daughter. Delving into her childhood, she discovered horrors that she had never fully understood.

Writing in both prose and accessible, poignant poetry, she shares her highs and lows, joys and suicidal thoughts, and bursts of energy and enervation, all in the service of finding peace. Audrey's triumphs are an inspiration to all who strive to overcome shadows of the past.

Review


When a father commits the ultimate act of hatred he could possibly inflict upon his own children, three-year-old Audrey is shoved into emotional turmoil, into an uncontrollable mess. The persistence of an atrocious memory plagues her with a lifetime of guilt and defeat, which strips her of what "life" should really be.

Composed of journal entries in lyrical verse spanning from 2006 to 2009 (during Roth's her middle adulthood), Arms Akimbo exposes readers to the rawest, cruelest emotions in childhood trauma's wake, unrestricted by the limitations and rules of prose. There are smatterings of explanatory paragraphs that show how poetry truly is the best platform for conveying emotions, but the majority of the memoir is poems. Poetry, we learn, is the best platform for passion, for rage; it is the ultimate release and ultimate relief, and eventually, the ultimate remedy. While the poems flow easily—the stream of consciousness isn't at all difficult to follow—I can't say they're of particular literary merit. Arms Akimbo isn't enjoyable because of the poetry; it's enjoyable because of the tragic story enfolded within. Similarly, for the prose sections, the sentences are choppy and disconnected, which may in fact be for poetic effect, but overall weaken the quality of the writing.

What I do commend is the way Roth weaves her painful past with tidbits of her renewed present including the parallel aspects of love, religion and her Jewish roots, motherhood, and a miserable separation. Her mind's disease gets worse when the past interferes with present struggles; just when she thought she'd healed, the ghosts return. This healing process essentially mimics the up-and-down roller-coaster of life: how the moment things start going smoothly, everything falls to pieces, and that's what makes it so relatable. 

Roth's strength, resilience, and the absence of such in her childhood are what lead her journey of healing. She only wants that lost childhood back and to be able to love unconditionally and trust fully and move on, but even decades after her father's death, his demons still haunt her. Her four-year-long odyssey of not only healing, but also the granting of forgiveness through assurance, complete honesty, closure, imagination, determination, religious awakening, hindsight, prayer, and comfort from her family, help her finally bury those demons so she can rest in peace.

Speaking to herself, past self, sister, mother, father, God, daughter, and partner guides her unending search for reconciliation. Before long, Roth realizes that in order to fully achieve peace of mind, she first and foremost, needs to fully understand—not God, not her father, the perpetrator, but—only herself. 

Pros


Powerful in message // Fast-paced // Explicit, raw, and unrestrained // Honest emotion and discovery conveyed effectively

Cons


Weak writing style // Should be chilling, but is stale

Love

Child experts tell us ... we learn much from how the adults around us, our parents, behave ... We learn to be silenced. We learn that to dull pain, to dull emotions, is to survive.

It is not to live, however.

We learn that to feel is to hurt.

So we avoid. We learn to survive. To silence ourselves. To collude. To endure a stabbing, burning, throbbing, eternal pain. A living, walking death.

Verdict


An unthinkable act of crime and one woman's determination to overcome its devastating aftermath light the way of this distressing and heartbreaking memoir. While stylistically, I found Arms Akimbo to be rather unimaginative and trite, I am impressed with Roth's ability and courage to so brutally speak her mind and so honestly come to terms with herself. I've read better-written memoirs dealing with sexual and child abuse (for instance, The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison), so I'm slightly hesitant with this one. However, I believe every story is different and every story deserves to be told, so I simultaneously do not have many reservations with recommending Arms Akimbo, either Americanflag

5 hearts: Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book (x)