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The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison
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The Kiss (1997)

by Kathryn Harrison

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The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison
Memoir

Incredibly brave and poignant recounting of the author's dysfunctional relationship with her entire family. The focal point of her life had always been her mother and father, who had married young after becoming pregnant. She always felt invisible to her mother and wanted only to be seen and loved by her. Her mother was incapable. She had her own internal demons which left Kathryn abandoned, neglected, forgotten.

Her father, who was forced out by his wife's parents, left the family when she was six months old. She saw him only a few times as a child, and even though he had remarried, he and her mother still had an obsession with each other which Kathryn witnessed with curiosity on the few occasions they were all together.

After a 10-year absence, Kathryn and her father were reunited. She was then 20 years old, a college student. They both seemed to be mesmerized by each other--Kathryn feeling like she was getting to know herself when she saw similarities between herself and her father, same walk, same face, same gestures. Her father, by then a successful minister, seemed to have fallen into an obsessive trance when he was near her. He couldn't stop touching her, staring at her, crying over the years lost. Even though it seemed over the top, Kathryn ate up all the attention she received from him. She finally was being seen by someone who declared he loved her.

I don't know it yet, not consciously, but I feel it; my father, holding himself so still and staring at me, has somehow begun to "see" me into being. His look gives me to myself, his gaze reflects the life my mother's willfully shut eyes denied.

From a mother who won't see me to a father who tells me I am there only when he does see me: perhaps, unconsciously, I consider this an existential promotion. I must, for already I feel that my life depends on my father's seeing me.

Slowly and cunningly, her father forces her to give everything to him, all or nothing. He is determined to own her, to possess her. In his mind, he feels that God gave her to him. She becomes distraught and unable to function in daily life; she even leaves college for a while. All her attention is focused on him and she is unable to explain to anyone what is happening inside her. ...I know it is wrong, and its wrongness is what lets me know, too, that it is a secret.

Her story is really heartbreaking and maddening. It seems at every turn, she encountered yet another person who was incapable or unwilling to give her a safe place to grow. Abandoned by both parents, grandparents withheld physical affection. Several people saw the unnatural relationship between her and her father developing but did nothing but cluck their tongues. To be fair, at one point her mother did suspect that something was going on and brought Kathryn to her therapist. In the telling, however, it almost seemed like the mother was doing it not out of concern for her daughter, but possibly out of jealousy or the need to prove her level of importance in the "contest" for the father's love.

In any event, there was evidence of a cycle of abuse through generations (her father's father made a pass at her as well) and no one seemed to be doing anything to stop it, including the author herself. There was no epilogue informing/reassuring her readers that her younger sisters or even young women in her father's congregation were kept from his possible manipulation. All that being said, her honesty is commendable, she's a talented writer, and her ability to put words together in such a beautiful way is a rare gift. ( )
  AddictedToMorphemes | Nov 16, 2015 |
A good read about a subject rarely discussed. The author courageously reveals her incestual relationship with her father (as an adult). An eye-opener! She invites you to explore the complexities of such a relationship after you've made your official judgements about people in these situations.
Recommended. ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 14, 2015 |
SEPTIEMBRE , 2012

One Word : Disturbing.

----------------

EDIT : ENERO , 2014

Y es lo mas raro que escuche , lei o aprendi - pero , si , hay un trastorno (o como se le diga) que se llama ATraccion sexual genetica .

ES tan perturbador que no se que decir al respecto . ( )
  LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
sad, weird story. ( )
  mahallett | May 18, 2014 |
Unbelievably powerful writing, plummeting you into the soul-numbing experience this author went through as the daughter of narcissists and the price she paid as her brilliant father's narcissistic supply during a four-year affair with him in her early 20's. While we're screaming "walk away" after the first kiss, the power of the story lies in, not only her masterful phrasing and what she numbly reveals in brevity, but in the fact that when a soul is so wounded and under a dark spell, the body follows its own path toward destruction even as the intellect instructs you to desist. I read it wanting to know how a writer could possibly craft this story, wondering what words and memories she'd pick to share such a dark soul path. I learned. Harrison is a master. Warning, it's a two hour read, but might stay with you forever. ( )
1 vote Micalhut | Aug 20, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
The past is a dangerous place. One look backward can turn you into salt, or cause the loss of the woman you love. For a writer, memory is treacherous and precious at the same time. Every now and then, though, a writer looks back with such bold clarity that it's as if we were living right along with the story. The work reverberates with similarities to our own experience, and with differences from our own experience, so that in the end it gives us a new way of looking at the world. Kathryn Harrison's memoir, ''The Kiss,'' is a book like this.
 
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We are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us, and though that love may pass, we remain none the less their work - a work that very likely they do not recognize, and which is never exactly what they intended. - Francois Mauriac, 'The Desert of Love'.
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Beloved 1942-1985
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We meet at airports. We meet in cities where we've never been before. We meet where no-one will recognize us.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067944999X, Hardcover)

The 1990s seems to be the decade of revelation. What used to be private is becoming increasingly public. All is aired on talk shows whose guests are no longer celebrities hawking their latest film, book, or album, but ordinary citizens selling their personal traumas. Mothers Who Sleep with Their Daughters' Boyfriends; Men Who Wear Their Girlfriends' Clothes; People Whose Families Have Been Murdered Before Their Eyes--no subject is too salacious or too shameful for public consumption.

And now here comes a true story about A Woman Who Slept with Her Father--prime fodder for the TV talk show feeding frenzy. Certainly it would be easy to lump Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, The Kiss into this same category of titillating topics, but that would be a mistake. There is nothing remotely titillating about Harrison's book; instead, it reads like a slow descent into hell--one that compels and repels in almost equal measure at times. Harrison, who did not really meet her father until she was 20, takes the reader on a difficult journey into her loveless childhood, her bouts with anorexia and bulimia, and, eventually, the incestuous 4-year affair with her father. Her prose is deceptively simple; her choice of present tense to describe events that occurred many years ago forces an immediacy--almost a complicity--upon the reader that heightens both revulsion and compassion.

The Kiss is not for everybody. Some readers will be outraged by its subject matter; others will find it just too painful to read. But for those who make it through, this harrowing tale promises the reward of a life reclaimed and a tragedy transcended.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:44 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The author recounts her sexual affair with her long-absent father, who reappeared when she was in her twenties, and the suffering and eventual readjustment that followed.

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