Daddy Love Paperback – 1 Feb 2013
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About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over 70 works and the winner of a host of prizes including the National Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and two nominations for the Nobel Prize. Oates is Professor of the Humanities at Princeton.
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Chester Cash is a charismatic and attractive man, with long flowing hair and a well toned, muscular body. Ladies like Chester and Chester knows how to use that to his advantage. Men like him to, inviting him over to drink beer and eat barbeque, but Chester is not attracted to men or women – he likes young boys and what he likes, he takes. Chester Cash is ‘Daddy Love’. Chester likes them young but when the boys start to grow he begins to lose interest and the boys lose their lives. Chester Cash is also a preacher with the ironically named ‘Church of Abiding Hope’ and he's the last person his congregation and neighbours would ever suspect of being a predatory paedophile and child killer.
In Daddy Love’s house Robbie is no more; renamed as Gideon and told that his parents didn’t want him, that they gave him away and that his mother was a bad mother because she smoked. Gideon is now Daddy Love’s ‘son’ and is ‘trained’ like a dog. Good behaviour is praised, bad behaviour is punished, instantly and painfully. Gideon doesn’t know what to believe but he knows he’ll be punished and so he does what he’s told to. Meanwhile his parents suffer his loss and Cash introduces Gideon to his community as his 'son'.
Is it OK to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book? I’m sure many would shudder at the idea of such a thing but if you’re not familiar with the writing of Joyce Carol Oates, then it’s understandable that you might think it impossible to enjoy the skill of the writing whilst being repelled by the subject but that’s how the book is. Oates is such an outstanding writer that she’s almost excused from the usual taboos of what can and cannot be written about. The book does tell of horrifying abuse but it never lingers on the torments of the boy and his parents, it never plays the physical and sexual abuse for any kind of sick titillation or leaves the reader feeling a bit ‘icky’ or contaminated by what they’ve read. The worst of Cash’s behaviour is delivered to the page in a matter of fact, straight down the line way that doesn’t leave room for self-doubt in the reader. This ‘stuff’ happens – not writing or reading about it won’t stop that.
This is not an easy read and not something I can recommend to every reader. I think parents – especially the parents of young children – will probably find this just too raw and painful to read and they might prefer to just not be exposed to this book. Parents or not, readers will have to witness horrifying abuse in the pages of ‘Daddy Love’. But if you’re a fan of Joyce Carol Oates, you probably know already that she can write on any topic, no matter how abhorrent and leave you grateful for the insight she offers.
This could have been a gratuitously unpleasant book, but it isn't. I found it moving, thought-provoking, positively heartbreaking at times, but somehow, by the end of it, for reasons that I don't entirely understand, I felt glad that I'd been on this dark, twisted journey.
I know a few people were worried about the content of this book but IMO there was nothing in this book that upset any parent. The author told of the abuse that little Robbie went through without the need for gory descriptions.
As my title says this book was an excellent read and i look forward to reading many more books from this author.
thought the depiction of the mother and her feeling of loss was particularly well done and the inter-dependency of abuser and abused was interesting . A book to make you think hard rather than lap up.