Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
Originally published in 1978, the year following Joan Crawford's death, this is Christina Crawford's account of a harrowing childhood lived out under the tyranny of an abusive, alcoholic adoptive mother. The book and the movie based on the book have become virtually iconic; most everyone is familiar with Mommie Dearest, whether in paperback or on the big screen, so I won't bother giving any more of a synopsis of the story.
Naturally, the author's claims of abuse have been disputed over the years. I won't judge as to whether I think her claims are credible; I think when such claims are made publicly, it is only to be expected that there will be some who will staunchly deny the claims, and those who will stand behind the accuser. Only the author knows what really happened.
What I found frustrating was the fact that the author never manages to divorce herself from this woman who was allegedly an absolute terror, a complete tyrant. Even in adulthood, she allows herself to be pushed around and bullied by her mother, and much of this has to do with allowing her mother to continue to hold the purse strings. You start to get the feeling after a while that Christina was a willing participant in the twisted, abusive relationship she shared with her mother.
Regardless, I think it's a pretty well-written book, and certainly compelling. The author is not always likable, but I'm not sure if that even matters. The drama of the story keeps the reader turning pages.
I read this the first time back in high school, and I doubt I would ever have picked it up again except that it's my book club's current selection - in honor of Mother's Day being in May. Some of us thought that we may see things a little differently now that we're parents - maybe tying a kid down in bed at night wouldn't seem like such a bad idea, some of us laughed. But you know what? Even now that I'm a parent, I'm still pretty horrified by the things the author describes, and tying a kid down in bed still seems heinous.
If you're looking for a real-life soap opera, this may just be the book for you.