In the ninth post of Christmas, I truly give to you…
That young boy without a name
anywhere I’d know his face
in this city the kid’s my favorite
I’ve seen him, seen him, I see him every day
I’ve seen him run outside
looking for a place to hide from his father
the kid half naked
and said to myself,
“O, what’s the matter here?”
I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses
he’s their kid I stay out of it,
but who gave you the right to do this?
Precise by Rebecca Berto
Since Natalie Merchant and the “10,000 Maniacs” railed against child abuse in the 1987 pop classic “What’s the Matter Here?”, the quiet murmur of a few radical reformers has turned into a populous uprising in a fevered pitch.
Rebecca Berto adds her voice to the din in this story Katie Anselin who struggles throughout the book to carve out a life for herself and her young family and break free of the grips of her controlling mother – Rochelle. Rochelle’s abuse of her daughter is primarily psychological (with a hint of some physical), but no less – perhaps even more damaging.
Rochelle is a modern “Mommie Dearest” who persistently blames Katie for the loss of her other children (due to miscarriages) as if Katie had committed unpardonable crimes against humanity. The story is told from Katie’s perspective and wherever she is, whatever she is doing, she is tormented by her mother’s omnipresent voice of accusation.
Precise is the first of the “Pulling Me Under” series. I suspect it will sell quite well, as the theme appeals to a mass audience throughout the world who see themselves victimized by forces beyond their control and look for an advocate who identifies with them, who they feel is trustworthy. For such, this may be precisely the book for which they are searching.
Berto labels the genre of as “Literary”. It’s true that she steers clear of many popular features of other genres. There are no blood-sucking vampires. There is no blood-splattering psycho-killer on the loose. There is only a (mostly) understated romance between Katie and her husband Paul that avoids lapsing into endless pages of gratuitous sex.
So, how does Precise function as literature? As for its strengths, it maintains a consistent voice. Berto’s craftsmanship at writing shows promise and should only get better. The tone is accessible, conversational without being riddled with cliches.
The primary area for growth is character development. The only character who changes over the course of the novel is Liam, who plays a minor (but pivotal role) as Katie’s friend. We are told of a significant change in Katie at the end, but don’t see it much (perhaps this will appear in future volumes).