In this acclaimed and groundbreaking memoir, Kathryn Harrison transforms into a work of art the darkest passage imaginable in a young woman’s life: an obsessive love affair between father and daughter that begins when she, at age twenty, is reunited with the father whose absence had haunted her youth. Exquisitely and hypnotically written, like a bold and terrifying dream, The Kiss is breathtaking in its honesty and in the power and beauty of its creation. A story both of transgression and of family complicity in breaking taboo, The Kiss is also about love—about the most primal of love triangles, the one that ensnares a child between mother and father.
The 1990s seems to be the decade of revelation. What used to be private is becoming increasingly public. All is aired on talk shows whose guests are no longer celebrities hawking their latest film, book, or album, but ordinary citizens selling their personal traumas. Mothers Who Sleep with Their Daughters' Boyfriends; Men Who Wear Their Girlfriends' Clothes; People Whose Families Have Been Murdered Before Their Eyes--no subject is too salacious or too shameful for public consumption.
And now here comes a true story about A Woman Who Slept with Her Father--prime fodder for the TV talk show feeding frenzy. Certainly it would be easy to lump Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, The Kiss into this same category of titillating topics, but that would be a mistake. There is nothing remotely titillating about Harrison's book; instead, it reads like a slow descent into hell--one that compels and repels in almost equal measure at times. Harrison, who did not really meet her father until she was 20, takes the reader on a difficult journey into her loveless childhood, her bouts with anorexia and bulimia, and, eventually, the incestuous 4-year affair with her father. Her prose is deceptively simple; her choice of present tense to describe events that occurred many years ago forces an immediacy--almost a complicity--upon the reader that heightens both revulsion and compassion.
The Kiss is not for everybody. Some readers will be outraged by its subject matter; others will find it just too painful to read. But for those who make it through, this harrowing tale promises the reward of a life reclaimed and a tragedy transcended.