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The Kiss

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  3,363 Ratings  ·  458 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

Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by HarperCollins (first published 1997)
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Best Strange and Twisted Memoirs
52nd out of 401 books — 883 voters
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Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
357th out of 3,479 books — 3,963 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust
*** NO RATING ***

Hmm. where do I begin ?

Believe it or not I AM a cautious reviewer. I do not wish to offend, dismiss nor ignore Mrs. Harrison or any authors feelings for that matter. We are all human beings and words can be universally hurtful. (*stepping down from my soap box*) With that being said, I am going to try and state my opinions the best way I can without channeling my inner asshole.

Here goes...

While I commend Mrs. Harrison's bravery in sharing such a difficult time in her life, her
Oct 01, 2012 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Ehlers
Kathryn Harrison was a pretty big deal in the 1990s. At the time, she’d written three literary novels. Of these three, one was about a sexual relationship between a father and his grown biological daughter. Another was about a woman whose father, a famous photographer, had taken inappropriate photos of his daughter as a child and then put them on display for everyone to see. With her fourth book, The Kiss, Kathryn Harrison finally wrote what she’d apparently been trying to write all along—a memo ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Terrie rated it did not like it
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
Jun 18, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
This is an older book - I still remember it clearly. ( I still own it). It's one of those books that you can't put down- yet when you are finished you're not sure what the hell you should tell others ...
Not the type of book I like to 'rate'..,'

It's very well written- extremely engaging --- I also think it's a test to the reader to see if their own judgments - of the content- will get in the way of 'really' just 'hearing the story the author has to tell.

Thought Provoking to say the least!!!
Jan 23, 2008 Emma rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 05, 2016 Licha rated it liked it
I'm giving this a 3 because I remember not hating this but also being quite disturbed by the subject matter. If I remember correctly, I may not have liked the style of writing. The one thing I do remember about this book is how the first sexual encounter happened and it was just too disturbing for me. Read this years ago and was probably too young to have read this but also too curious to want to read about something so taboo.
Feb 15, 2015 Lucy rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
1 star is too many.......

When reading a memoir it helps if one can relate or sympathize with the author, unfortunately for me I could not understand, relate, or have any compassion for Ms. Harrison. She paints herself as an incest survivor who falls for the manipulations of her father, but by the end of this memoir I just wasn't buying what Ms. Harrison was selling. In fact I was left wondering if the events in this memoir are even true.

So basically Ms. Harrison had a not so great childhood. Sh
Amy Smith
Jan 02, 2010 Amy Smith rated it did not like it
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
May 10, 2007 ruzmarì rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aug 06, 2010 Beth rated it it was ok
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
Jan 23, 2009 Iris rated it it was amazing
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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
It began with the voice of an innocent little child saying “I’m going to read Mommy’s book for reading time tonight” – followed by Mommy’s scream of NOOOOOOO, DON’T READ THAT!!!!!. The story then moves into the kitchen where the husband asks what’s so wrong with this book that the boy-child can’t touch it? The wife’s answer? Wellllllllll, you see, it’s a memoir of a woman telling the story of her incestuous relationship with her father. Husband’s response? “You read some f*&%d up s#@t!”

I bla
Lacey Louwagie
Feb 14, 2010 Lacey Louwagie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Jan 30, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it
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
Anna Vincent
Oct 05, 2014 Anna Vincent rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, psychology
This book is beyond amazing. Not only does the author courageously write a very bold first-hand account of a very hushed topic (incest), but she writes with clarity and insight, in a poetic and mesmerizing style, and she writes without shame.

I recommend this book to memoir-lovers, anyone who likes good literature, and, obviously, victims of abuse.

Kathryn Harrison writes in present tense, just as Eva Hoffman does in Lost in Translation (another great book), which, at first, is difficult to adjust
Apr 28, 2013 Chloe rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 10, 2012 Alexis rated it really liked it
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
Aug 04, 2011 J.M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction
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
Mar 06, 2011 Terry rated it liked it  ·  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.
Heather Mize
Aug 04, 2011 Heather Mize rated it did not like it
This book disgusted me, and I apologize for being so harsh. I know it's a memoir, and I should be empathizing with the author, but it's a hard sell to see her as the victim of abuse when she was of an age that she should have known better. She perpetuated the relationship. Furthermore, I find the tone of her memoir to be whiny, as if she knows she must somehow work to convince the reader she's a victim. I muddled through this book, but still think it's one of the worst reading experiences ever. ...more
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.
Feb 27, 2015 kelly rated it did not like it
Despite my best efforts, this is going to be a negative review. The more I read this book, the more I was annoyed with the author. I was already well aware of the hype surrounding this book and decided to read it for myself and make my own judgment.

I wish I hadn't.

Although Kathryn Harrison is a decent writer, it is never really showcased here. Instead she uses flowery, emotionally sappy prose throughout most of the book. The writing here is incredibly bad; I could literally picture violins (i.e
Feb 02, 2011 Christie rated it it was amazing
"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,
Mar 06, 2011 Maia rated it it was ok
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
Jan 13, 2015 Jeanne rated it liked it
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
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
Dec 25, 2007 Joy rated it liked it
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
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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 about Kathryn Harrison...

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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.” 21 likes
“The dizzy rapture of starving. The power of needing nothing. By force of will I make myself the impossible sprite who lives on air, on water, on purity.” 13 likes
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