Tilly, Meg. Gemma. Syren Book Company. 2006. Minneapolis, USA.

This is a harrowing, but believable novel by the actor Meg Tilly who grew up in British Columbia. Although it is a novel, Tilly says she suffered abuse from men her mother knew in her childhood; this novel is based on some of her experiences.

Childhood sexual abuse by close family members and friends is one of the last taboo subjects in our society. Yet nearly every family has experienced it, some acknowledge it and others ignore it. What is so hard to comprehend is expressed in this book, that often parents, particularly mothers, and others know what is happening & turn a blind eye to abuse. This seems incredible, but in many instances is part of the terrible destruction of the trust and responsibility a parent owes a child. In this book we see this abuse through the mind and words of a child who is trapped by adult power and the lack of an alternative. Gemma is abducted and taken on a sordid road trip though the USA. Attempts to break away are never recognized and supported by other adults. Finally a doctor and a police officer save her and the child slowly begins to believe that adults can be trusted.

Tilly also captures the mentality of the brutes who abuse children. Somehow in the twisted mind of Gemma’s captor and rapist, he actually thinks he loves and cares for her. That is truly the scariest part of the book and made me think about the justification for war in Afghanistan where we are killing and impoverishing women because we want to “free” them. Her captor similarly thinks he is doing her a favour and that she will welcome him when he returns (from jail).

This twisted mentality results in more violence at the personal and political level and a societal denial that individuals and societies cannot be saved by force. We have to recognize in our own community that power abuse is common, widespread and tolerated – just as it is on a global level.

Filed under Book Reviews, Meg Tilly