11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2011
I live in Portland and remember the actual news story when the man and his daughter were discovered living in Forest Park, so I found this book fascinating, because although it is fiction, it clearly follows the actual story to the extent possible for the first half of the book. The second half however, maybe because no one really knows what actually happened, seems to loose its way and appears to throw in various aspects from other famous missing child cases to fill the gaps. The second half was disturbing (although it certainly kept me reading), and seemed fractured and confusing (especially whatever happened in the Yurt). Because of the way it ended, it also raised questions as to the quality of the police work in the first part of the book, which seemed unreal for a current day story (i.e that the police wouldn't know for sure, without a doubt that the man and child were really related and the child was not reported as missing before releasing them to their new home on the farm). It was worth reading, but I want to know more about why the author put it together like this.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2009
My Abandonment tells the story of a father and daughter living off the grid in the Pacific Northwest; by following them through their struggle to live differently the book raises subtle but interesting questions about the the main characters mental health and the health of our society more broadly. I picked this up mostly because I'm a Portlander and much of the book is set in that city. There is indeed a spirit of the Pacific Northwest that threads through the story, a sense of appreciating nature and independence mixed with a quiet and problematic self-righteousness. The book challenged me to think about that mix through the course of a reasonably compelling narrative.
Ultimately, however, something about the book felt shallow. Probably much of that has to do with the narration being covered entirely by Caroline (the 13 year old daughter). I imagine it is difficult to inhabit the mind and voice of a 13 year old girl, and the book probably does as well as it can with that. But done well, the perspective of a 13 year old girl is necessarily limited. Caroline is smart and precocious, but she is also isolated and naive. Though that makes sense in the context of the story, it left me moderately disappointed as a reader. The possible themes embedded in the book felt as though they deserved something a bit more sophisticated. Similarly, at the end of the book the story line accelerates suddenly--both through remembrances and new events. I won't give away the story, but that acceleration also made the story feel a bit shallow--as if the author only decided on how to frame the first part of the book after writing it.
Overall, My Abandonment is worth the quick read. It raises subtle and interesting questions through an intriguing story about contemporary society and its conventions. But the book itself felt to me as if it could have gone deeper with those questions.
43 of 55 people found the following review helpful
"My Abandonment" is a fascinating and surprising novel--a quick and engrossing read. I was captivated from the start about the lives of this father-daughter duo living, ostensibly undetected, in a large nature park near Portland, OR. In "My Abandonment" Caroline relates the story of their doings together and her thoughts and feelings in a matter-of-fact stream of words--sometimes run-on sentences, sometimes fragments--which underscore the strange existence that they have. I enjoyed reading about there adventurous life in the woods.
And yet all is not well in paradise; Dad is just a tad TOO suspicious...it becomes apparent that this is not just an "alternative lifestyle" choice, but a life fraught with fear and mounting paranoia. He suffers from terrible nightmares and even waking flashbacks from the war he served in, centering on helicopters, a sign of PTSD. In forest park, they are super-careful not to get caught; one gets a sense of paranoia already from the start. They do venture out into town in order to pick up his disability checks at the P.O., and to get groceries, but with elaborate preparations to avoid attention and detection.
Caroline seems well-adjusted, a brave, smart little lady: 14 years old, on the brink of young-womanhood, having lived as a jungle child the past four years. From her father she learns the lessons of a hidden life; from herself she learns to be resourceful, growing her own hidden vegetable garden to supplement their diet. She seems totally devoted to her dad, yet she has a burning curiosity about the life beyond their sheltered world among the trees. She "accidentally" makes a mistake--ever so small--that leads to the discovery of their cave-house by a jogger and subsequently they are removed from the shelter of their world by the police, incarcerated then questioned, tested and "studied".
And then a "miracle" occurs. A well-to-do farmer/rancher hires Father as a helper and provides Father and daughter a clean, equipped bunkhouse, with all the amenities of civilization to live in. Those who brought them here never ask them if they want this new life; they are just sure that they will like it, and that they will be extremely grateful. Father doesn't seem to mind the work, but he also doesn't seem to like people coming and giving them more "stuff", and having to fit in and live they way others expect. He feels trapped. His behavior becomes increasingly irrational, his paranoia mounts, and he must escape.
Caroline follows "Father" on his crazy, paranoid wanderings through many bizarre twists and turns, and she remains loyal and devoted to him. Finally, though, she must find her own sanity and make her own peace with the "real" world. How she survives and learns to adapt to life in a larger world is both interesting and poignant.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Caroline and her father live a life entirely of their own choosing and design -- in the woods. In their carefully-hidden shelter, Caroline studies her collection of encyclopedias and completes homework that her father assigns. As the narrator of the story, her voice is literate, imaginative, and poetic -- yet detached, with only a slight bent for analysis of people and situations. She lives by a set of rules that her father (who, as the story unfolds, becomes more and more paranoid and clearly suffers from PTSD) has laid down, and most of the time, that's enough for her. She's like a young wild animal, whose instincts sometimes fall to curiosity.
Indeed, it's Caroline's curiosity that leads to her discovery. Authorities rout her and her father from their makeshift home. They are whisked off to be cleaned, tested, evaluated, and ultimately sent to live and work on a farm. They are told how lucky they are, to be given so much, and for a while even Caroline's father seems content. But his illness takes hold of him once again, and he insists they abandon their new home and try to stake a claim in the wilderness again.
Things begin to fall apart from there. Caroline and her father are eventually separated again -- once and for all, in a horrible way -- and this leaves Caroline the freedom to remember her early life, before her father claimed her from her "foster parents." She journeys to her old neighborhood and finds her younger sister, whom she hopes to take with her, so she can teach the girl her way of life. When concerned citizens notice Caroline, alone and hurt, she flees before they can take her away from her life in the wild.
The book doesn't have a nicely wrapped-up, "happy" ending, and I admired that. The ending, like everything else about the book, is realistic and unsentimental. This is not a book about "being green" and living as "natural" a life as possible, nor is it one of those overdone books about a spirited, individualistic, go-getter girl who refuses to compromise -- no "girl power" garbage here. This is a quietly harrowing, often beautiful book about a girl whose mind has been poisoned without her even realizing it. The fact that she doesn't have much of a concept of "what could have been" is her saving grace; she builds a life on her own terms and is content. The slippery idea of "happiness" doesn't enter into it. Caroline endures.
"My Abandonment" is beautifully written and thought-provoking without being showy or cheap. Caroline's detached voice and imagistic (rather than analytical) way of presenting things can make the book seem "slow" at times, but persevere and you'll be rewarded! I recommend this book for kids age 11 and up -- and adults too.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2009
I enjoyed reading this book because the concept was different. This girl is growing up in a completely nontraditional lifestyle, but seems relatively normal, and quite intelligent. There are times when you sympathize with her reasoning that just because she and her father live differently, that doesn't make it wrong.
However, there are glimpses of yearning from her, to have friends, to interact with people, as she is forbidden to do. You wonder what will become of her if she doesn't get that socialization before she's an adult.
The voice of Caroline is often run-on, as a child's thoughts would be. It gives her a particular voice. However, she doesn't seem to feel a whole lot, as though she is walking through life in a numbed state. She isn't passionate or excited about anything, nor does she get angry or upset. She's very docile and accepting, which sometimes does not ring very true for girl of thirteen. Surely, her father's paranoid behavior at least should annoy her sometimes, even if it doesn't seem worrisome to her. And what thirteen year old girl wouldn't chaffe under the strict control he keeps over her? She does disobey on rare occasion, but only when he won't find out about it.
The twist in the story brings clarity to the situation, and introduces new dimensions to the situation. I had hoped for the resolution that the writer did not choose, and the social and emotional ramifications thereof. Instead, I found the ending disappointing, although I can see how the author would feel that it brought the story full circle.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Warning: This review contains spoiiers. It's also written by a reviewer who has watched way too many "Law and Order" episodes, and thus has major problems with the plausibility of the setup.
Thirteen-year-old Caroline and her father have been living in the wilderness and seemingly getting along okay, although where they get their disposable income is not really addressed. Dad has a credit card for emergencies, but it's not clear how he manages to pay his debts, so it doesn't get cancelled. It would be easier to suspend disbelief if the novel weren't set in 1999.
Anyway, they run afoul of the local authorities, who turn out to be perfectly nice and give them a house to live in and bikes. Caroline thinks maybe living a more normal lifestyle and going to school with her peers might not be so bad, but Dad has other plans, so off they go. Eventually, there's a tragedy, but the girl survives okay and even manages to grow up and go to college.
The part I had trouble with is when they are taken in and questioned by authorities. Wouldn't a DNA test prove that they aren't related, and that Dad is lying? The girl has been in the foster system, wouldn't she be in a computer database, particularly since she was kidnapped by her "Father?" Surely, there would be a record of her fingerprints or blood somewhere?
I don't frankly know. But it seems in this day and age, that it would be possible to figure out who Caroline and her dad are and act accordingly. Oh well. If you can get past that, it's a good novel.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2009
I have so many mixed emotions about this book. A thirteen year old girl, living with her "father" in the wild. The basis of this book was taken from true story and Peter Rock is telling it from Carolines eyes. He did a remarkable job with three quarters of the book but something happened in the last quarter that left me either lost or wanting more. I just couldn't put my finger on where the ending was going or what the author was trying to tell me.
I truly hope that "Caroline" has found her way in the world and is now a normal functioning young woman.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
My Abandonment by Peter Rock is a riveting psychological fiction based upon a true story which happened in the state forest of Portland, Oregon. Told in the voice of its thirteen year old heroine, Caroline, this deceptively simple novel is a haunting story of the complex intertwining of normal and perhaps abnormal bonding between a father and his daughter. The result is a hard-hitting, slow-boiling coming of age tale of singular transcendence.
Caroline and her father are bound together by their love for each other and the need to protect their lifestyle on the fringe of a society that considers them homeless. Caroline and Father are actually very much at home in the wilderness in which they live so happily. Father protects her, teaches her, keeps her healthy, and makes her self-reliant. Caroline is in her element with Father; she is happy and understands him completely.
Father is a war veteran, (which war is never really revealed but I sensed Vietnam). He is suffering from severe social anxiety and paranoia, perhaps symptomatic of post traumatic stress disorder, but his survival instincts are mighty and his devotion to Caroline's well being is his life, his mission.
He instills in Caroline wisdom, spirit and an insatiable hunger for freedom. He teaches her that "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary."
Father is a great reader and into a notebook he carries with him at all time compulsively copies notes from his favorite writers: Emerson, Thoreau and Rousseau. In the same notebook he writes back at what he copied. His notebook is an ongoing conversation... he copied out on one page: "The great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude" and he wrote back his own thought: "To be great is to keep sweetness." Below that Caroline writes: "How about the girl who doesn't feel alone when she is alone?"
As Caroline approaches womanhood, wise beyond her years for all Father has taught her, their roles dramatically reverse. Advancing confidently in the direction of her dreams and keeping with her perfect sweetness, Caroline understands intuitively what Father wrote: "Valor consists in the power of self-recovery."
My Abandonment is as poignant as it is disturbing and impossible to stop reading. Peter Rock writes close to the surface and never lets up, exhibiting masterly control over the characters he has richly developed from characters he originally read about in the Portland newspapers. This novel is tender, shocking and sad but it is also life-affirming. Allow yourself the privilege of journeying with Caroline and Father, keeping with perfect sweetness..."The way of life is wonderful. It is by abandonment."
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The novel is about a girl who lives in a state park with her father. They live in the wilderness, shying away from society and surviving in nature. The father, who fought at "a war" shows classic signs of post traumatic stress disorder: nightmares of helicopters, paranoia, aversion to society. It is clear that the father is trying to protect Caroline from the outside world, which he views as menacing, never realizing the harm he is causing by keeping her away and inculcating his own sense of paranoia in her.
Then, the outside world comes bursting in and they try to rescue Caroline. They offer them an opportunity to live at a farm house, attend school and work at a farmer's house. Reluctantly, they take it. The novel then revolves about the father's plans trying to get back to their old life.
I had to take a few days to think about this book before writing the review. On the one hand, it was an interesting story that was never fully explored. There were a lot of things that were left in the air at the end, never truly explained. I think the author never truly grasped the teenager's voice. He made her sound androgynous most of the time, even though he tried to explain how she was becoming aware of her body. Her narration was simple, and even lyrical. It said things in a matter of fact way, whilst at the same time, working things out.
It was a good book, an interesting thing. I think the narrator never really developed her own voice and it was the author who pushed through.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2009
What abandonment? Who abandoned whom?
Did "father"/war veteran abandon "normal" life? Did we/society abandon him & Caroline by not paying attention, minding our own business, being too busy, in too much of a hurry, not caring?
This story has such resonance in light of Jaycee Lee Dugard being finally "found" after 18 years in captivity, of being "hidden" in plain sight of parole officers, welfare workers, neighbors. The Portland case & its management are truly bizarre, as in Jaycee's case.
Do these victims ever recover? What is "recovery"?
This novel is moving, enlightening, terrifying. I do care about Caroline & her "father". I highly recommend this novel. It's a quick, riveting read.
I love the wilderness & solitude & feel the attraction (but, yes, with access to Safeway, Ray's, hot showers, laundromats, theater, music, etc.).
Stockholm Syndrome, bonding, terror, the "devil we know"? One wonders how the mind can be so malleable. Why don't these captives signal for help or rescue? So many people do indeed disappear/vanish (escape?). Please stay safe. Please pay attention. Please let no more be taken.
Thank you, Peter Rock, for your attention, for your gifted writing.