I had issues with this book. I’m just going to start with that. I’m glad I had issues with it, I’ll be up front with that as well. This was a powerful book and I wasn’t expecting that. It took me places, that frankly i didn’t want to go. But like Kate, I had little choice. I couldn’t make it stop nor could I turn away.
Kate Montgomery was fourteen years old in 1981. She lived in L.A. with her parents until her father’s gambling addiction and poor decisions takes its ultimate toll on the family. The resulting divorce places her in a car with her mother going to her mother’s home town of Philadelphia. She isn’t thrilled to be there but tries to make the best of it. Hard to love grandparents and few friends don’tt make things easier. Her one solace was a leather-bound diary which become the most important thing to her.
As Kate tries to navigate her new life and new school she meets Marie and the two outcasts become fast friends. Kate’s mother, a career housewife up until the divorce, finds a job as a bar waitress. This leaves Kate home alone at night much of the time. As she becomes closer to Marie they begin to share their secrets and vices. Maire introduces her to weed and boys. Both of which become a blessing and burden for her as time goes on.
The real downward spiral for young Kate started when she comes home to find her mother and her mother’s new ‘friend’ in the living room. Grady was a bad decision dressed in stale smoke and beer breath. The longer he stayed around, the farther Kate’s mother fell farther into the same habit of co-dependency with the first asshole that showed her some attention. His not so subtle attraction to Kate pushes her to withdraw from her school work and leads her to her own series of bad decisions. Her withdrawal and obvious disdain for the drunken lout does little to dissuade him from crawling into her bed one night.
The worst was only yet to come as Kate’s life quickly begins to unravel and the darkness in her life only compounds on itself. One by one the people in her life either abandon her or push her away. She finds a new way to push all the horror in her life momentarily aside. The blade on her soft flesh slices only the once before she finds in it a moments euphoria. Keeping a small paring knife handy, her way of escape leaves scars.
As disturbing as it is powerful, Open Wounds refused to let me put it down. I admit that some of the most difficult parts for me was when Kate put knife to skin. It wasn’t the knife slicing the flesh of her arms and thighs that disturbed me the most, it was confronting my own memories of doing the same thing when I was younger. My own life did not mirror hers but those feelings of hopeless frustration are universal. The only difference is degree. I wasn’t expecting that, nor was I expecting the unflinching journey that the characters in this novel walked either. Well written and engrossing, I cannot recommend Open Wounds enough. This is certainly a must read.
Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and always keep a Swedish friend around when building IKEA furniture.