The Kiss
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The Kiss

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  2,537 ratings  ·  366 reviews

We meet at airports. We meet in cities where we've never been before. We meet where no one will recognize us.

A "man of God" is how someone described my father to me. I don 't remember who. Not my mother. I'm young enough that I take the words to mean he has magical properties and that he is good, better than other people.

With his hand under my chin, my father draws my face

...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by HarperCollins (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

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Evan
Somewhere out there in the South a retired ex-minister, a great Don Juan who was told by God personally to fuck his own emotionally needy daughter and God knows who else (he was a children's missionary overseas, after all) must be basking in the proud afterglow of his memories. And then there's the daughter, Kathryn Harrison, the author of this memoir, who was just fucked up enough in the head from family dysfunction to go along with it -- and yet, being a 20- to- 24-year-old young woman when th...more
Emma
This book is disturbing. Well, the subject matter is disturbing (an affair she has with her father).

I feel great respect for the bravery that went into writing it. Something bugs me which is that after all of that, she didn't go into the healing part of the trauma. Well, maybe that was the point. It was all so starkly written, which definitely gave you the impression of being there. You get it. The feeling of being stuck, of her body and mind freezing over--it's very visceral. I just also wante...more
Katie
A very disturbing book in its taboo subject matter (father/daughter incest), "The Kiss" is an incredibly honest and well-written memoir. As a therapist reading such a sad, dysfunctional narrative, I couldn't help but feel a sense of deju vu....the narrative of "The Kiss" paralleling those of similar stories I've heard within the office walls of client sessions over the years. Tragic that this (incest) happens more than society is aware. Power, control, and shame are a potent formula for instilli...more
ruzmarì
There was a time when all I read by Kathryn Harrison spoke to me deeply, and this memoir was the first of those things. I now chalk that period up to needing higher dosage of better drugs.

This memoir is ... all the words that have been attributed to it. Lyrical at times, provocative, sad, haunting. It is deeply troubling, more than anything, and Harrison's willingness to dive right in and put her life - and her father's - on display is what lingers to trouble me now, years after her artful prose...more
Amy Smith
The Kiss is one of the few books that I can find within the subject of consensual incest, yet the author seems unaware that she fits this category. It is as if she isn't twenty years old, but five, and indeed the way the book is written, I would tend to agree. She leaps around her lifetime with no discernible pattern. Sometimes she is young, sometimes the relationship is over, and it was incredibly hard to follow.

We know that the author has control issues because she reveals that she has anorexi...more
Beth
I didn't dislike this because it shocked me or upset me. It shocked me, but it didn't upset me. Not just because I'm a desensitised teenager, either. The dreadful "purple prose" grew too much for me. I didn't want any sexual scenes between Harrison and her father, but the drifty, floaty narrative sapped any sympathy I had for Harrison, and none of it felt real. Maybe she was trying to put us in her dissociative mind, but the overdone floweriness of it all took away from the raw impact of the sto...more
Lacey Louwagie
I was morbidly drawn to this book when I read it described as a memoir about a woman's "consensual affair with her father." I wondered, what circumstances could make an affair with one's father consensual; did she not know he was her father? Did she grow up without him, and not see him as a father figure when they finally met?

It turns out that she did grow up without him in her life, but it's a stretch to call their affair consensual. It begins when Kathryn is 20 years old, meeting her father fo...more
Iris
This book is haunting, and not only for the reasons one might think from the book jacket. It is sprinkled with reminders of what we all do when we live in darkness and loneliness; the explorations of our world (and self) that end up traumatizing us, that we never tell anyone else about. These are the scenes in this book I will never forget... and won't expound upon, because I want it to hit you just as hard when you read this book.

The structure of The Kiss isn't always chronological, linear, o...more
Jessica
Jan 30, 2008 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who isn't sqeamish about taboo subjects
Difficult book to read. The subject matter is enough to make almost anyone sqeamish. If you can get past the jeebies, you will find a well written account of a woman's deep psychological need to connect with her father. The father completely exploits her vulnerability. I felt so much pity for Harrison even though she doesn't ask for it. I also felt a deep amount of respect, not many women or men would have the courage to write about something as disturbing as a sexual relationship with their fat...more
Leah
Unforgettable, but not entirely satisfying.

Let me qualify that: this is a memoir of a tragic, life-wrecking incestuous affair between a father and daughter, so a "satisfying" read in this context doesn't mean a happy ending--there can't be a happy ending here, as Harrison gradually realizes; just an ending. But by "satisfying" I mean a sense of solid understanding and insight, a feeling like I had a glimpse into the heads of the people involved rather than just a front-row seat to the action. An...more
Terry
Mar 06, 2011 Terry rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: College students who think their family is crazy
Memoir is interesting country: travel at your own risk. Harrison's words are beautiful, aching in their emptiness. There is insanity here, the uncomfortable kind that is at once unfathomable and all too real. I was profoundly take in by her story, but I don't know if I'd suggest others take the trip.

As a genre, there seems to be no shortage of jaw-dropping, literary memoir: Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir, Running with Scissors, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, ad infinitum.
Terrie
Aug 28, 2008 Terrie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terrie by: Bookmarks
Yawn. Admittedly, she didn't have the best childhood, but on the other hand she grew up in a stable household with her grandparents, enough money, education, etc. And I don't buy that her father "manipulated" her into a relationship. She was 20 years old, she could make her own choices at that point, especially when it involved voluntarily travelling long distances to meet him. Not that I was looking for details (yuck), but I also don't buy that she "doesn't remember" any of the times that she h...more
Npaw
May 28, 2013 Npaw marked it as to-read
I gave this book 2 stars based solely on the fact that it was a risk. That being said, it was a risk void of feeling or emotion. Of course I'm guessing when someone fucks their daddy, they become void of feeling or emotion, but I expect more of a book. If the writer lacks this in their writing, the reader doesn't stand a chance in getting pulled in. I was so far removed that I didn't even hurl which is surprising given my weak stomach, lack of sleep, and subject matter.
Harum Helmy
Holy fuck.
Christie
"Appalling but beautifully written…jumping back and forth in time yet drawing you irresistibly toward the heart if a great evil." – Christopher Lehmann Haupt, The New York Times

Memoirs are all the rage these days and I have read a few - but I’ve never read anything like The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison. I’ve read a couple other books by Harrison and I now more fully understand some of the recurring themes in her novels (dysfunctional families, issues of love and the withholding of it, estrangement,...more
Jeanne
Last Sunday's Washington Post Magazine contained an article about "While They Slept: An Inquiry Into The Murder of a Family" about murders in Medford, Oregon, another book by this author. The article mentioned this book, and I was intrigued by the author's statement that at age 20, she began a 4-year affair with her father. Normally one would refer to such an incestuous relationship as molestation, or some other such term. At any rate, I requested this book from the library and read it in one si...more
Anna
I took me a total of four months to complete this book. The reason thereof not having anything to do with the author writing style because is one to admire, but because it is one of those books that aches. If you have not yet found a book that does this for you I will be deliberate when explaining the feeling as it effects me on a personal opinionated level: It is a book that in the most illogical sense of the meaning of this next statement, beats with every word as if the book had taken on a li...more
Chloe
first of all, props to ms. harrison for writing this book. how very brave of her to write about such a taboo subject.

this memoir is amazing and terrifying. amazing because like I said, the courage it had to of taken to sit down and relive her past and put it out there for the world to read. terrifying for obvious reasons. how a father could seduce his daughter and completely take over not only her mind but her body and soul as well. it's... it's..sad and has to be extremely frightening and conf...more
Joy
The subject matter is what drew me to this memoir but I was mainly interested in Kathryn Harrison's characterizations. It's a difficult subject to cover in that the author had an incestous relationship as an adult with her father. I was curious to see how Ms. Harrison presented her characters.

Technically, I believe the book is well-written and Ms. Harrison succeeded in engaging the reader's attention and maintaining it throughout. I've never read any of her other work so I don't know if this mem...more
Ann
What an amazing, fascinating, horrendous book!! I could not put it down, yet at the same time had feelings of repulsion, revulsion and great sympathy for Harrison -- since it is her memoir,

It is her story of being born to teen parents who barely know each other, abandoned (physically and emotionally by her father and emotionally by her mother) raised by a very judgmental grandmother and a (thank goodness!) somewhat warm, caring grandfather -- and all the scars and needs she carries as a result o...more
Alexis
Flattened by this book. The impossible love between mother and daughter I found even more compelling than the incest relationship. I love how the experience of the book takes the reader (mostly) outside of space and time. We are shuttled to the coast, to here, there, but we could be anywhere. Or, nowhere. And in this powerful dislocation, Harrison circumscribes the devastating experience of participation in that which kills, alienates,and undoes the self. The narrative distance is at once too cl...more
Jamila
It is very hard for me to sympathize with Harrison, even though she is supposed to be a victim. She is 20 and in college when her father is able to seduce her. The reader is SUPPOSED to be able to connect with her and empathize how she was able to allow her father to start such a thing at an older age.

Don’t get me wrong but wouldn’t the typical normal human reaction from being involved in a relationship of incest be shame and lack the crudeness required to self-promote it in any form?

Harrison w...more
LA Carlson
Jun 20, 2013 LA Carlson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mature readers
Shelves: historial-memoir
While the subject matter is simply taboo; the writing is fluid, beautiful and haunting. I stumbled upon this author after reading her profile in a book about why author's write and I was immediately drawn in. To imagine having a sexual relationship with your father is unimaginable for those of us who are centered; but imagine if you weren't and then what? Love mixed with sex comes unexpectedly as an adult and it happens to be your estranged father.
Incest is such a manipulative, dirty word and ye...more
Mical
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 fo...more
Julia Mandell
I actually haven't finished this book and I don't know if I will. It's a memoir about an incestuous affair between the author and her father. I heard about it years ago and when I came across it in the library recently figured it was good juicy reading--perfect for having just finished my thesis. But it totally creeped me out. It's well written, and the writing saves it from being completely lurid, but it's really disturbing. Plus, I don't really like confessional memoirs, especially self-seriou...more
Maia
I picked this up again the other day because I'm always sort of the surprised that I a) was as annoyed by it as I was/still am and b) could barely, barely get through it. Years ago, when I worked in NY publishing, took writing classes, published short stories etc, I met and spent quite some time with Kathryn Harrison, as well as with her husband, also a writer. They're both 10-15 years older than me, what I'd consider 'young baby boomers' and they were then--and apparently still are today--both...more
April
This book was thought provoking unlike some of the other reviewers here I don't feel that tha author categorized herslef as a helpless victim. Throughout the book she talks about her actions as being a betrayal of her mother, something she shouldn't feel if she was truly a totally unwitting victim and got therapy afterward. The fact is she acknowledges her abnormal fascination with her father, but it was her father who morphs the relationship into something intensely perverse. One of the things...more
Stephanie
A 20-year old girl (the author) gets seduced and manipulated by her absent father, from whom she had been estranged since birth. As she depicts it, she is drawn in in part because she needs a father so badly, and in part because she hates her mother, who longs for the father's attention despite having sent him away at the behest of her parents. It's an interesting take on triangles, voids, rage, taboos, need, narcissism, and abusive dynamics. An attempt to make a narrative from the unspeakable (...more
kathi
Dec 05, 2009 kathi rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to kathi by: the Oprah show
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.M.
Saw this in Writer's Digest and thought it looked really interesting. Unfortunately, the book review I read said the author entered into a consensual sexual relationship with her father and, after reading the book, I can tell you there was nothing consensual about it. The language was a bit too literary for me at times, as if the author was trying too hard, and after the first 20 pages or so I was tempted to put it down. Still, I'm glad I weathered it out. I wish more had been divulged about her...more
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Kathryn Harrison is the author of the novels Envy, The Seal Wife, The Binding Chair, Poison, Exposure, and Thicker Than Water.
She has also written memoirs, The Kiss and The Mother Knot, a travel memoir, The Road To Santiago, a biography, Saint Therese Of Lisieux, and a collection of personal essays, Seeking Rapture.
Ms. Harrison is a frequent reviewer for The New York Times Book Review; her essay...more
More about Kathryn Harrison...
Enchantments The Binding Chair or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society Poison Exposure While They Slept: An Inquiry Into the Murder of a Family

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“We're taught to expect unconditional love from our parents, but I think it is more the gift our children give us. It's they who love us helplessly, no matter what or who we are.” 9 likes
“My days are as long as despair can make them.” 6 likes
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