One winter's day in 1978, when US-born Harding was 14 years old, she was abducted at knife-point, thrown into a van, raped, and left to die. But this wasn't the most traumatic defining event in her childhood. In this compelling and unflinching memoir which switches between past and present, Harding (who is married to Thomas Harding, author of Hans & Rudolf et al) unravels the impact of this random act of violence and of her dysfunctional childhood. It's a tale of trauma and PTSD, but also of recovery through the healing power of restorative justice, and of enduring love.
These fragments of childhood pain are seen through the shifting lens of Harding’s own, less extreme, struggles with parenting, but her book is more than a heartbreakingly disturbing account of childhood abuse in the US, in the vein of Tara Westover’s Educated. A third, parallel strand explores her love for her kind, devoted father and carefully extracts moments of real happiness from the chaos of her early life. Having braced myself for misery, I found these sections the most impressive part of the book. A road trip to New York where they watch Rocky together, a wise conversation about how best to deal with ghosts hiding beneath the bed, running sessions together in the school gym – Harding’s father helps her to become “fierce” in her love of life.