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My Abandonment by Peter Rock

My Abandonment (2008)

by Peter Rock

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This book was inspired by a fascinating true story of a father and daughter living in Forest Park, Portland, for about four years before anyone found them. This all came out in 2004 in a couple of articles in The Oregonian. They were relocated to a farm south of Portland, offered housing and a job, but then disappeared again into the night and were never heard from again.
This book does an excellent job of offering an insight into modern day homelessness by choice. The book is narrated from the daughter's perspective, Caroline, who is 13 years old. I work a lot with the homeless and I found Frank and Carolina to be very believable characters -- even the way that Caroline's narration kept you at a distance, much the way the homeless maintain something of a veil over their lives. I felt removed from the characters, more like an observer than a participant in their life stories.
The book was enigmatic, distant, slightly mysterious, and hard to fully grasp, but engaging for all of that. The scene where Frank dies was very surreal. I really liked, however, the direction Caroline took her life in after her father's death. Working at a library, living deep in the woods. I think she captured the Thoreauvian ideal that her father was chasing but couldn't quite find.
An interesting, thoughtful book.
  wintersdoor | Jul 2, 2017 |
A unique story from a unique perspective, that of thirteen year old girl living the life of the homeless with her father. My emotions ebbed and swayed throughout the narrative, which veered into places unexpected, a lot of questions remain unanswered, but still a good read. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 10, 2016 |
Too much left unknown/unsaid. I didn't enjoy the weird syntax Caroline uses. Her insights weren't as insightful as they were probably supposed to be. This book had tons of potential, but fell flat. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Haunting, well told, disturbing, and I'm not sure I'm glad I read it yet I couldn't put it down. ( )
  SkiKatt68 | Feb 26, 2016 |
POSSIBLE SPOILER: Having lived in Portland and Central Oregon, where this book for the most part takes place, it was especially interesting just for the many mentions of landmarks and places. Based on a true story, but the author admittedly has to make up pretty much the second half of the book because the father and his daughter disappeared from society again and haven't been found since the left the farm. The second half was pretty bizarre and far-fetched in a way, but poignant and sensitive in its treatment of their relationship. I especially liked how the author hints at things rather than just coming out and saying them. An interview I read made it clear that he was strictly adhering to what he thought a young girl might think having been brought up the way she was, the things she might understand and not really understand, so it was a really pretty good read. I am anxious to read more of his books, as he says many of his characters move from book to book, and I want to find out more about Ruth and her son, the folks they met in the woods living in the yurt. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
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It is remarkable how many creatures live wild and free though secret in the woods, and still sustain themselves in the neighborhood of towns, suspected by only hunter.
--Henry David Thoreau

Very soon after, I saw a little snake. He was crawling along. When I see snakes, I like to stop and watch. The dresses they wear fit them tight - they can't fluff out their clothes like birds can. But snakes are quick people. They move is such a pretty way. Their eyes are bright, and their tongues are slim.
--Opal Whiteley,
The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow
For Ida Akiko Rock
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Sometimes you're walking through the woods when a stick leaps into the air and strikes you across the back and shoulders several times, then flies away lost in the underbrush.
If a paragraph is a thought, a complete thought, then a sentence is one piece of a thought. Like in addition where one number plus another number equals a bigger number. If you wrote down subtraction you would start with a thought and take enough away that it is no longer complete. You might write backward or nothing at all, or less than nothing. You wouldn't even think or breathe.
A wizard is one who practices magic but can also be a person who is clever at a task or test, which is a series of questions, a trial, affliction, crucible, ordeal, tribulation, visitation.
It is important to always remember that at any time you think of it there are people being kept in buildings when they want to go outside.
From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.
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Puzzling title. Fine book. (I wonder if anyone will suggest a better title: I'm still trying to think of one.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0151014140, Hardcover)

Product Description
A thirteen-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, an enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. They inhabit an elaborate cave shelter, wash in a nearby creek, store perishables at the water's edge, use a makeshift septic system, tend a garden, even keep a library of sorts. Once a week they go to the city to buy groceries and otherwise merge with the civilized world. But one small mistake allows a backcountry jogger to discover them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight.

Inspired by a true story and told through the startlingly sincere voice of its young narrator, Caroline, My Abandonment is a riveting journey into life at the margins and a mesmerizing tale of survival and hope.

A Q&A with Peter Rock, Author of My Abandonment

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: About five years ago, I read a short mention of a thirteen-year-old girl and her father discovered living in Forest Park, a rugged wilderness that borders downtown Portland. They had been living there for four years in a carefully camouflaged camp, ingeniously escaping detection, venturing into the city to collect his disability checks and to shop for the groceries they couldn't grow. He had been homeschooling the girl, who tested beyond her age group. A second newspaper article described how the two had been relocated to a horse farm; the father had been given a job, and the girl was to start middle school in the fall. I thought the situation was resolved, and filed the story away; then a third brief newspaper mention described how the two had disappeared one night. I waited and waited, searched the Web, but months passed and there was no more information. The two had truly disappeared. Unable to find out more information about how they lived or what became of them, my mind began to spin out possibilities. I realized I had to tell the story myself in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Q: So is the novel "inspired by a true story" out of necessity?

A: I'm a fiction writer, and had there been enough information available to write a nonfiction account, I wouldn't have been interested in writing it. Perhaps some might hesitate at making fiction out of real people's lives, or see it as a real imposition. I am a little uneasy about it myself but hope that my effort is a testament to my enthusiasm and respect. And wonder.

Q: Describe some of your more physical preparations or research.

A: I spent a lot of time wandering through some of the more remote sections of Forest Park, imagining scenes, climbing trees. I had the coordinates for the camp where the father and daughter had lived, which had been taken apart, and also encountered many more recent camps where homeless people were living off the grid. I also spent a fair amount of time hiking in the backcountry around Sisters and the Santiam Pass area in central Oregon, through the burned-out volcanic lands where forest fires recently ran, through the snow, my mind traveling as Caroline's.

Q: What caused you to choose the girl, Caroline, as the narrator?

A: Generally speaking, I'm suspicious of child narrators--their naiveté often feels manipulative or mannered, their voices grating. So I tried to conceive of this story from several other angles, but was unsuccessful. I wished to convey the wonder and joy in what could be a sadder or more cynical story, and the only way to do that was to let Caroline tell it.

Q: How would you respond to someone who wonders whether a forty-year-old man can write as a thirteen-year-old girl?

A: I'm not a writer who's ever been able to write convincingly through narrators who share my gender and age. I think the ways in which we’re alike are far greater than small differences like these, anyway. I've been lonely; I've wanted to feel secure; I've wondered at nature and the fact of spinning around on this earth through the galaxy; I've wished that animals could communicate more easily with us; I've thought about where my dead friends might have gone...

Q: How did you prepare to write in Caroline’s voice?

A: I spent a lot of time thinking about what she needed, what she wanted, what she knew and didn't know, the way she had to believe her world in order to enjoy and survive in it. I spent time reading encyclopedias, as she does, and Golden Nature Guides. I read the books that informed her father's thinking--Emerson, Thoreau, Rousseau. I read Opal Whiteley's nature diaries.

Q: Who is Randy?

A: Randy is a toy horse that Caroline's father gave her. She'd wanted a My Pretty Pony–type doll, and what she got was an acupuncturist's horse model--one side covered in numbers and dots, where the needles would go, and the other side flayed to reveal the horse's bones and organs. Caroline doesn't know what Randy is for; she just loves him and carries him with her. And Randy does exist in my life as well. One way I stayed with Caroline was to have Randy next to me every moment I was writing the book, reminding me of who I was and what was at stake. A small white horse, reassuring me.

(Photo © Ella Vining)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:23 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A 13-year-old girl and her father live in Forest Park, the enormous nature preserve in Portland, Oregon. There they inhabit an elaborate cave shelter and live off the land, even tending a garden and keeping a library of sorts. They go to the city weekly to buy groceries and merge with the civilized world. But a backcountry jogger discovers them, which derails their entire existence, ultimately provoking a deeper flight. Inspired by a true story and told through the startlingly sincere voice of its young narrator, Caroline, it is a riveting journey into lives lived at the margins and a mesmerizing tale of survival and hope.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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