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My Abandonment Paperback – Bargain Price, April 2, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 130 customer reviews

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Product Description
A thirteen-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, an enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water's edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts. Once a week they go to the city to buy groceries and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.

Inspired by a true story and told through the startlingly sincere voice of its young narrator, Caroline, My Abandonment is a riveting journey into life at the margins and a mesmerizing tale of survival and hope.

A Q&A with Peter Rock, Author of My Abandonment

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: About five years ago, I read a short mention of a thirteen-year-old girl and her father discovered living in Forest Park, a rugged wilderness that borders downtown Portland. They had been living there for four years in a carefully camouflaged camp, ingeniously escaping detection, venturing into the city to collect his disability checks and to shop for the groceries they couldn't grow. He had been homeschooling the girl, who tested beyond her age group. A second newspaper article described how the two had been relocated to a horse farm; the father had been given a job, and the girl was to start middle school in the fall. I thought the situation was resolved, and filed the story away; then a third brief newspaper mention described how the two had disappeared one night. I waited and waited, searched the Web, but months passed and there was no more information. The two had truly disappeared. Unable to find out more information about how they lived or what became of them, my mind began to spin out possibilities. I realized I had to tell the story myself in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Q: So is the novel "inspired by a true story" out of necessity?

A: I'm a fiction writer, and had there been enough information available to write a nonfiction account, I wouldn't have been interested in writing it. Perhaps some might hesitate at making fiction out of real people's lives, or see it as a real imposition. I am a little uneasy about it myself but hope that my effort is a testament to my enthusiasm and respect. And wonder.

Q: Describe some of your more physical preparations or research.

A: I spent a lot of time wandering through some of the more remote sections of Forest Park, imagining scenes, climbing trees. I had the coordinates for the camp where the father and daughter had lived, which had been taken apart, and also encountered many more recent camps where homeless people were living off the grid. I also spent a fair amount of time hiking in the backcountry around Sisters and the Santiam Pass area in central Oregon, through the burned-out volcanic lands where forest fires recently ran, through the snow, my mind traveling as Caroline's.

Q: What caused you to choose the girl, Caroline, as the narrator?

A: Generally speaking, I'm suspicious of child narrators--their naiveté often feels manipulative or mannered, their voices grating. So I tried to conceive of this story from several other angles, but was unsuccessful. I wished to convey the wonder and joy in what could be a sadder or more cynical story, and the only way to do that was to let Caroline tell it.

Q: How would you respond to someone who wonders whether a forty-year-old man can write as a thirteen-year-old girl?

A: I'm not a writer who's ever been able to write convincingly through narrators who share my gender and age. I think the ways in which we’re alike are far greater than small differences like these, anyway. I've been lonely; I've wanted to feel secure; I've wondered at nature and the fact of spinning around on this earth through the galaxy; I've wished that animals could communicate more easily with us; I've thought about where my dead friends might have gone...

Q: How did you prepare to write in Caroline’s voice?

A: I spent a lot of time thinking about what she needed, what she wanted, what she knew and didn't know, the way she had to believe her world in order to enjoy and survive in it. I spent time reading encyclopedias, as she does, and Golden Nature Guides. I read the books that informed her father's thinking--Emerson, Thoreau, Rousseau. I read Opal Whiteley's nature diaries.

Q: Who is Randy?

A: Randy is a toy horse that Caroline's father gave her. She'd wanted a My Pretty Pony–type doll, and what she got was an acupuncturist's horse model--one side covered in numbers and dots, where the needles would go, and the other side flayed to reveal the horse's bones and organs. Caroline doesn't know what Randy is for; she just loves him and carries him with her. And Randy does exist in my life as well. One way I stayed with Caroline was to have Randy next to me every moment I was writing the book, reminding me of who I was and what was at stake. A small white horse, reassuring me.

(Photo © Ella Vining)

--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The engaging but limited perspective of 13-year-old Caroline, the hillbilly girl that lived in the park, reveals a highly circumscribed world. When first met, Caroline and Father are scavenging for materials to make a shelter in the forest park outside of Portland, Ore., where they seem to be hiding out. They make cautious trips into the city to the supermarket and the library, but a lapse by Caroline brings police attention, and they are taken into custody. Jean Bauer, whose profession is unclear, helps Father secure employment and brings pots and pans and school clothes for Caroline. Who are these two? Caroline walks past posters with my face on them, my old name, and no one sees me. Father says: If I weren't your father... how could I have walked right into your backyard and walked away with you and no one said a word? This is a tale of survival, of love and attachment, of mystery and alienation. It is an utterly entrancing book, a bow to Thoreau and a nod to the detective story. Every step of this narrative, despite providing more questions than answers, rings true. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156035529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156035521
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,289,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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