Cinderland: A Memoir

Cinderland Book Cover Cinderland
Amy Jo Burns
Biography & Autobiography
Beacon Press (MA)
2014-10-07
216

"Amy Jo Burns grew up in Mercury, PA--a small, conservative Rust Belt town fallen sleepy a decade after the steel industry's collapse. But the year Amy turned ten, everyone in Mercury woke up. That was the year Howard Lotte, Mercury's beloved piano teacher, was accused of committing indiscretions during his lessons. Among the girls questioned, only seven dared to tell the truth that would ostracize them from the community. Amy Jo Burns was one of the girls who lied. Her memoir, CINDERLAND, navigates the impact that lie had on her adolescent years to follow--tracing all the boys she ran from and toward, the girls she betrayed, and the endless performances she put on to please a town that never trusted girls in the first place. CINDERLAND is literary memoir of the highest caliber. A slim, searing feat of narrative beauty, it is full of psychologically nuanced grappling, imagery of fire and steel, and eerily universal shadows of adolescence"--

 

Review:

It is difficult to write a review of a memoir, due in part to it being someone’s life story that was partially laid out for them by circumstances of birth, as well as the fact that the author is an inherently flawed narrator by only having their own thoughts to base it upon.  In fiction, even if written in first-person, at least the author has an idea of what is going on in the other characters. “Cinderland: A Memoir” is particularly difficult due to the subject of molestation.  Anyone being able to write about it deserves credit for that alone.

That all being said, this review took me days to finish, and I finally decided to review as I would any other story, fictional or not.  It is based upon a complimentary copy provided through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

The positive of “Cinderland” is that it does an excellent job of exploring the feelings that stay with abuse victims throughout their lives.  It takes an emotional and developmental toll.  It was also extremely honest in terms of the guilt the author felt over not having spoken out about the abuse she suffered, leaving the fallout to the other girls who did speak out.  As uncomfortable as it is to read, I feel that it’s very important to expose the way people blame victims, even if it is unintentional.

Unfortunately, the author comes across as someone who feels like those around her are beneath her in some way, especially those who have no goals to get out of the town.  While she admits to loving to the town, it is implied that those who are content there have no ambition and are trapped.  It is as though she never begins to think that they may love living there and want that life.  In keeping with this trend, while she writes that the need for the spotlight was to hide what she was truly feeling, it is very obvious she was smart and popular.  That is not a bad thing, but again, there was a feeling of dismissal of those who were content to be in the background of things.

In spite of this, the positives would have led me to give “Cinderland” four stars.  That is, until the part that dealt more with Aaron.  For someone who meant so much to her, his deepest scars were revealed with very little empathy and absolutely no follow-up.  I could understand if it was a protection of privacy, but if that was the case, his secrets should have been left out entirely. The broken-hearted boy who was obviously being taken advantage in a relationship by someone in a position of power, physically abused, and had stood by her throughout her life with not much acknowledgement until the end of high school, was in my opinion the most sympathetic character in the book.  As it was written he was used by and disposable to the author.  Of all people, she should have understood his hurt, but all that was written was what he did for her.  Unlike what the author wrote, leaving a town does not mean having to make a clean break from those you love.

I am not afraid to admit that I searched the thank you notes hoping that “Aaron” would have been mentioned.  He helped her through, but apparently did not even warrant that.

The disregard for those around her are what makes me absolutely not recommend this book.  It reads like a self-congratulatory slap on the back and is, quite frankly, grating.

 

Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, the only warning I will included is that there is frank discussion of child molestation, so please keep that in mind if it may trigger you.

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