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The Kiss Paperback – June 1, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The 1990s seems to be the decade of revelation. What used to be private is becoming increasingly public. All is aired on talk shows whose guests are no longer celebrities hawking their latest film, book, or album, but ordinary citizens selling their personal traumas. Mothers Who Sleep with Their Daughters' Boyfriends; Men Who Wear Their Girlfriends' Clothes; People Whose Families Have Been Murdered Before Their Eyes--no subject is too salacious or too shameful for public consumption.

And now here comes a true story about A Woman Who Slept with Her Father--prime fodder for the TV talk show feeding frenzy. Certainly it would be easy to lump Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, The Kiss into this same category of titillating topics, but that would be a mistake. There is nothing remotely titillating about Harrison's book; instead, it reads like a slow descent into hell--one that compels and repels in almost equal measure at times. Harrison, who did not really meet her father until she was 20, takes the reader on a difficult journey into her loveless childhood, her bouts with anorexia and bulimia, and, eventually, the incestuous 4-year affair with her father. Her prose is deceptively simple; her choice of present tense to describe events that occurred many years ago forces an immediacy--almost a complicity--upon the reader that heightens both revulsion and compassion.

The Kiss is not for everybody. Some readers will be outraged by its subject matter; others will find it just too painful to read. But for those who make it through, this harrowing tale promises the reward of a life reclaimed and a tragedy transcended. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The reading experience doesn't get much better than this: a literary author whose fiction has flirted with incestuous leitmotivs (e.g., Exposure, LJ 12/92) writes a true confession, and in the present tense, of her several-year "affair" as a college student with her handsome father, absent most of her life growing up. Instigated by a French kiss in an airport?like the "transforming sting" of a scorpion that the father "administers in order that he might consume me"?their tentative rapprochement explodes into an "unspeakable" passion: he, an ex-theologian, worships her long hair; she is captivated by his ardent attention. She is also enraged at her mother, of course, and the cruelty the pair inflict behind her back is stunning. "Whatever passions we feel," Harrison extols in her psychoanalytically corrected, rather blank prose, "we call love." Indeed, there is a great deal missing here, namely, the sex, which Harrison claims she can't remember. It's hard not to approach this publishing sensation cynically; and Harrison, with foresight, has turned it instead into a rueful coming-to-terms with her mother, concluding with her death (the book is dedicated to "Beloved"?her mother, not her father). Whether it's a brave or brazen effort, readers will want this.?Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380731479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380731473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,568,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kathryn Harrison's "The Kiss," is a powerful, beautifully written autobiographical work about her four year incestuous relationship with her sexually and emotionally exploitive father, her years with her dysfunctional family, especially her narcissistic mother, and ultimately, her story of survival. This is not a "tell-all," written to titillate voyeuristic readers. There is nothing graphically sexual written in this memoir of the author's childhood and early adult life. Pain, however, is found here in abundance, as well as courage.

When Ms. Harrison sought professional help because she feared for her life, (a potential suicide), and her sanity, she worked very hard to revisit her past, to learn about and understand the horrors she experienced, and to explore her family's dynamics, particularly those between her mother, father and herself. Although the subject of incest is a major taboo, the act - the crime - is much more prevalent in our society than one would imagine. Because there is so much shame attached to incestuous relationships, victims rarely divulge their dark secrets, and so documentation and accurate statistics are difficult to come by.

Kathryn's parents met when they were seventeen. They fell in love, and when the teenage girl became pregnant with Kathryn, the young couple married and lived with the disapproving maternal grandparents. Before the infant turned one year-old, her grandfather pressured her father, just a boy really, to leave and get a divorce so his wife could begin her life anew. Kathryn saw her father twice over the next twenty years. Her mother, who provided her child with almost no emotional stability, moved into her own apartment when Kathryn turned six, leaving her behind and no phone number or mailing address where she could be contacted.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an elegantly written memoir, searingly painful, yet, at the same time, strangely compelling, about a young woman who grew up in a dysfunctional household, raised primarily by her grandparents. Her undemonstrative mother, who lived apart from her daughter during her formative years, was emotionally distant, and her father, from whom her mother was divorced, was physically absent.

When she was reunited with her father at the age of twenty, her hunger for love and affection was such that an unfatherly kiss led to a consensual and obsessive sexual affair with her biological father, an ordained minister. It was an obsession in which her own mother was seemingly complicit, treating her daughter as if she were a rival for the affection of the man that they both loved. The author's unseemly obsession with her father would torment and haunt her for years.

This is a beautifully told story about a parental betrayal so incomprehensible that it will leave the reader aghast. The author infuses the book with a sadness that is heartbreakingly palpable. Her evocative and lyrical prose, spare and intense, elevates this otherwise sordid and tawdry tale, making it a haunting memoir of a past that is best forgotten.
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Format: Paperback
This is the story that Harrison had been longing to tell. There are traces of the same story in her first novel "Thicker than Water." There are traces of the same story in her second novel "Exposure". And then she wrote "The Kiss", which is an unadorned, unapologetic first-hand account of a very disturbing, violating relationship with her own father.
The telling of Harrison's story is amazingly well done. No self-pity, no over-analysis. Just the plain and simple albeit disturbing facts. This short book, though at times hard to read, is even harder to put down, and impossible to forget.
Writing this memoir took guts of steel. And no, she's not "cashing in on the incest trend" like some of her critics accuse. Those who are uncomfortable hearing about incest need to realize that keeping victims silent helps allow it to happen.
However, this book is not motivated by money or awareness causes. It appears motivated by the author's own need to free herself from the paralyzing memories of the horrible situation she was thrust into, to explain it to herself as much as to the reader. To "get it off her chest" so she could move on.
Harrison fans like myself will also notice that she *has* moved on. Her novels since this memoir ("Poison" and "The Binding Chair") show that Harrison's mind is now free to imagine other stories worth telling, which are painstakingly researched and beautifully written.
I highly recommend this book. It is this gifted author's best work, and it is one you will never forget.
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Format: Paperback
This 1997 memoir by Kathryn Harrison is the true story of her incestuous relationship with her father. Her parents were divorced and there had been little contact throughout her childhood, but she had always been obsessed with him. Then, after visiting her in college when she was 20, his kiss good-bye was passionate rather than fatherly. That was the beginning.
Ms. Harrison's writes in the present tense, with brief flashbacks and flash forwards, her language seemingly simple and yet poetic. Always, it is startling with a deep underlay of sorrow. The reader shares her turmoil, her guilt, her attraction to her father as well as her repulsion. She's a victim, although a willing one, anorexic, bulimic and sad.
I've read two of her other books, "Poison" and "The Binding Chair". I loved both of them. And now that I've read this memoir, I've come to know her more and understand the deep well of discomfort which is present in her writing. Now a wife and mother, and a writer of some renown, I admire the courage it took for her to write this book and come to terms with the demons of her past. A mere 207 pages of large print, this book can be easily read in one sitting. Like her other books, it's not a pleasant read but yet very worthwhile. I definitely recommend it.
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