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The Packing House Paperback – January 10, 2016
"In his debut novel, G. Donald Cribbs has written an emotional wallop about the courage and bravery of a young survivor. The Packing House is a tapestry of nightmares--the images that haunt Joel in his dreams and memories woven together with the painful experiences of a frayed and fractured family life, the take-no-prisoner bullying of adolescence, and the agony of loving and not knowing if it will ever be returned. And yet, Joel's story is one of strength and resilience as he hunts down the source of all this pain--a story Cribbs captures with sharp-eyed and utterly clear veracity. Three cheers to G. Donald Cribbs for endeavoring to tell this tough story and doing it so well."
--Brendan Kiely, author of The Gospel of Winter, and co-author of All American Boys (with Jason Reynolds), winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.
"THE PACKING HOUSE is as an enthralling and important piece of fiction that tastefully and honestly addresses the topic of sexual abuse of minors."
About the Author
G. Donald Cribbs has written and published poetry and short stories since high school. Donald is a graduate of Messiah College in English and Education, and currently holds a PA Teacher's Certificate in English and Education. In addition, Donald is currently a graduate student halfway through his master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Somehow, the author has maintained a 4.0, despite working full time and writing during all other interstitial times. He and his wife and four boys reside in central Pennsylvania where the author is hard at work on his next book, the sequel to his debut novel, The Packing House (2016), by Booktrope, tentatively titled, Unpacking the Past. Having lived and traveled abroad in England, France, Belgium, Germany, China and Thailand (you can guess where he lived and where he visited), the author loves languages and how they connect us all. Coffee and Nutella are a close second.
Top customer reviews
The Packing House is not a comfortable story for young adults, no less anyone to have to read, but it is most certainly necessary as well as enlightening. This subject, despite how difficult, can no longer be shelved or irresponsibly sequestered and hidden away. Nor can this topic be discussed in secret hushed overtones meant to imply guilt, or worse -perpetuate embarrassment -for the victim.
No, this is the kind of story that a reader needs to remain present in. Willing to observe like a fly on the wall, allowing oneself to stay intrinsically engaged, safe enough to absorb, but unable to revise or turn away, and when faced by all the elements that make the moment- whatever they are- culpable to the truth.
This author’s story shows how triggers from past abuse are vast. How they can spring apart and lash out, caused by a memory, a flashback, or even a familiar scent or sound. In this novel, the main character is Joel, a teenage boy who was battling such an infringement. Initially, Joel remained somewhat unaware of the suppressed trunk-full of painful recollections he thought he had successfully compartmentalized, but soon he can no longer run away from the truth that follows and taunts him. He comes to realize that even in his sleep, he is not safe from intrusion. For those who have never experienced this level of sheer brutality, will witness with absolute transparency how awareness of these insipid elements that draw from the soul of the victim becomes apparently clear through Joel’s private thoughts and actions.
For Joel, most of the adults in his life have let him down. He has been neglected, ignored, endangered, and manipulated. Violated repeatedly until he no longer knows who is left in his world for him to trust. Questioning the motives and intentions of every grown person he is forced to encounter. So-called ‘adults’ who knew and did nothing to stop ‘it’ from happening, failed to protect, to hold the perpetrators accountable, and willfully remained blind to the truth at the cost of a child’s safety and innocence.
However, Joel has a special friend, -Amber, who is the one person he thought he could continue to trust. His heart gravitated and yearned to share memories with her in the hope that her closeness would somehow allow him to make sense of his fears. However, forced distance coupled with misunderstanding threatened to pull them apart as well. The more Amber tried to draw Joel into a spiritual peace, the more he refused to open himself up for further disappointment –even from God, who Joel thinks abandoned him too. In the story Joel poignantly thinks to himself, “I can picture her [Amber] watching the sky, startled, as the immense sun rises from the water like a fiery bather, and later reading her Bible as the salty breeze rustles the pages. I wish I could find peace like that. The other part of me is scared God would show up.”
Like Joel, many young people who have been forced to face these kinds of horrific and volatile challenges need a voice, -a platform to express their pain, even if veiled behind the barricade of fiction. They need reassurance that what crime did to them was not their fault. This author provides such a place and more. He leaves no stone unturned. Not one painful thought indistinct. The story takes the reader through a cacophony of directions, each one unraveling and further exposing the dissonance of raw truths, as they lie –at the feet of the damaged, helpless victim, and in the face of a society all too willing to turn away and pretend blindness.
The Packing House is an extremely important story to share. It is educational for adults to know that abuse really happens too often and that too many kids experience it every day. It is empowering for teenagers who need encouragement to go to someone they trust and to get the help they need.
As a parent of a boy who is the same age now as Joel was then, what sticks in my mind is the innocence of how young Joel was. He didn't have any way of knowing what was happening to him or why. It breaks my heart, but also reminds me to be grateful for my own children’s safety.
The descriptions are tactfully written, enough that the reader knows exactly what happened without needing every detail "spelled out."
I found myself rooting for Joel particularly at the school and later for him to tell someone so that Joel could get the help he needed.
The Packing House makes me want to tell every child being abused to go get help, to talk to someone, and that it’s not their fault!
I highly recommend it be shared in schools and churches for teenagers to read (maybe for their parents to read it first). The resources and discussion questions listed make it an excellent “ready for classroom” teaching tool. Even if the teens who read it are not currently in a situation such as Joel’s, they likely know someone else who is or was and can maybe even help that someone.
May this book greatly impact readers in meaningful, life-changing ways!
Nonetheless, I accessed the first few chapters online and was immediately ‘hooked’ on the story as well as Cribbs’ style of telling the story. A week or so later the book and, unable to put the book down, I read the rest of the book that same day.
This important book, in an informative and compelling way, introduces childhood sexual abuse (CSA) to those who have been spared the grief and trauma. The Packing House has increased my awareness and sensitivity to victims of CSA, as well as a desire to support them in their recovery.
It was a good investment of my time and money!
in when I found myself strolling down amnesia lane recalling and reflecting on my own awkward high school years. His vivid description of the ins and outs of dysfunction are haunting and authentic. In this wonderful book the author starts us in a realm of nightmare and confusion, moves us to a place of trauma and pain, and ultimately guides us into the light of redemption and healing. This is a book that demanded to be written and I am so glad that the author had the strength and insight to see it through.