Thomas's Reviews > The Kiss: A Memoir

The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison
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's review
Jul 20, 11

really liked it
Read in July, 2011

The Kiss is a devastating memoir about the sexual affair carried on between Kathryn Harrison and her father. It is a testament to Harrison’s abilities as a writer that she is able to take a subject so foreign to most readers as incest, and create an insightful, and sometimes familiar, work that charts the painful and unforgiving terrain that can exist between parent and child.

From a young age, Harrison was starved of affection. Her mother, a young woman at the time of Harrison’s birth, sought to define herself outside the boundaries of motherhood. As a result, Harrison grew up hungry for approval, eventually finding it in the arms of her estranged father, a pastor, who fed on her insecurities and manipulated her with his language and intellect.

I admit to my uncertainty when first starting this book. I decided early on that the only appropriate route for Harrison to take would be to accept her own role in continuing the affair with her father, which began when she was twenty—an age at which any adult should be more than capable of making their own decisions. Or so I thought. Harrison’s portrait of the relationship is meticulously recreated, a “connect-the-dots” of sorts, scientifically precise—she lays out just how she got to that point.

Harrison’s language is wonderfully understated, while retaining a quality that is haunting and perfectly reflects the book’s contents. A disturbing and fearless book, Harrison is worthy of much admiration for her courage.
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