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This text is a disturbing read. Introducing themes such as child abuse, incest, alienation, mental illness, bullying and extremist religious behaviour, it is not an easy book to digest; however for the sophisticated reader it is a book that intrigues and affects every essence of your humanity. Hester has been kept imprisoned in her home by her reclusive religious parents. Her companions are Cat, Spoon, Broom and Handle and they engage Hester in conversations. Suddenly thrust into the outside world, Hester is at once the object of ridicule and derision. This is not a book that can be easily put down, as the reader is filled with the fear of what is going to happen next conjoined with a desire not to loose the thread of the plot, which at times can be baffling. This is a dark and terrible tale told in lyrical, poetic language and stark imagery. It is coloured with religious references adding a further layer of desolation and denseness to the text. You can only hope that the reading of this book may promote wider discussion of child abuse. The saddest aspect of this type of fiction is that for some children, there are threads of truth to be found within the story. Fiona Edwards is an editor, journalist and teacher

Australian actor and young-adult writer Laguna (Too Loud Lily) delivers a grim, creepy, powerful first-person narrative about a direly neglected child whose knowledge of the world is severely circumscribed by her fanatically Christian parents. Told entirely in the solipsistic point of view of Hester, the only child of paranoid, abusive parents, the novel pursues the girl's deeply troubling relationship with them and their bizarre world view. Begrudged her difficult birth, Hester is routinely hung, Christ-like, from her arms in the basement by her depressed mother, who sequesters the young girl in their shared cabin, her only book The Abridged Picture Bible. Hester's brief foray to school, thanks to the intervention of the town authorities, proves eye-opening (she makes her first friend, Mary), but ultimately disastrous. Molested by her father through her adolescence, Hester is finally institutionalized when her parents can no longer control her. Laguna's rendering of Hester's fragile mental state is sympathetic and touching, especially through imagined dialogue with inanimate objects and in the friendship Hester makes with Mary, and then in the institution, with Norma. A truly haunting tale that readers won't soon forget, from a compelling, original voice. (Aug.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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