cover image Dancing With the Octopus

Dancing With the Octopus

Debora Harding. Bloomsbury, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-63557-612-2

In this intense debut memoir, Harding writes of the aftermath of a traumatic experience as a teenager. In 1978, at age 14, she was abducted from a church across the street from her Omaha school by a ski-masked stranger, 17-year-old Charles Goodwin. He rapes her and demands ransom from her parents before tying her up and leaving her near a set of train tracks. Goodwin, who had a criminal record and served in juvenile detention, was far from Harding’s only source of trauma, though. Harding recounts heartbreaking tales of her abusive, mentally ill mother, who locked her and her sisters in an unheated garage during the winter as punishment for minor offenses. “They say with severe crimes there’s no avoiding the aftermath,” Harding writes. “What they don’t say is how post-traumatic stress can become a disorder because of your childhood family, the one you’re trying to survive.” Even as she fears for her own mental state, struggles with PTSD, and loses her father to suicide, Harding breaks the cycle of abuse taught to her by her dysfunctional family, and she is now happily in a healthy relationship. This moving story of grit and resilience will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned. (Sept.)