cover image In My Fathers Arms: A True Story of Incest

In My Fathers Arms: A True Story of Incest

Walter De Milly, Walter De Milly. University of Wisconsin Press, $19.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-299-16510-9

From the time he was an infant until he turned 10, Tallahassee, Fla., native DeMilly was repeatedly molested by his father, he discloses in this frank account. The elder DeMilly also molested neighborhood children and exposed himself to his daughter, according to the author. After a period of blocking out the experiences (during which he came to recognize his incipient homosexuality), a dream in college reawakened DeMilly's memories of abuse. However, a well-known psychologist dismissed them and counseled him to pursue heterosexual relationships. Years later, when the father of a neighborhood victim threatened to press charges unless DeMilly's father submitted to psychiatric treatment, DeMilly's family came to believe his account. With the guidance of a psychiatrist, the entire family, including the father, chose surgical castration as the father's treatment, only learning later how unusual their choice was. DeMilly's spare prose lyrically evinces the horror of the incidents; he effectively captures the dissociation from himself that often occurs in abuse victims. However, he sacrifices chronological order for artistic effect, creating a somewhat repetitive and confusing narrative. In the least effective passages, he attempts to re-create his father's experience, capturing his own fervent desire to understand rather than illuminating the source of his father's actions. (Oct.)