Review: One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna

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one_foot_wrong.jpg    One Foot Wrong
Sofie Laguna
Allen & Unwin, 256 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Tineke Haze

There is indescribable suffering of a mentally retarded little girl, Hester, in this book. Hester is growing up as an only child, forbidden to go outside and with no one to play with other than her Cat. She has an Abridged Picture Bible she loves to look at, and a spoon, a doorhandle, a broom, and a tree who talk to her. The moment she puts one foot wrong, her angry and deranged mother Sack, takes her down into the cellar and hangs her from the shoulders above the table for punishment, while her weak and ineffectual father Boot protests, without results. Hester sleeps in her parents room at the end of their bed, but, when she is a little older, gets a room of her own. It is then that Boot starts his night visits to Hester, who doesn't understand that this is so out of order, and wouldn't be able to tell her mother anyway. The Welfare Department somehow become involved and after some tests it is decided Hester must attend the local school. Sack is powerless to stop this and Hester is thrown into a situation where everything is strange for her. It proves a disaster in the end when Hester has shown she has violent tendencies when she cannot make anyone understand what she feels or wants. She is sent home again and resumes her domestic life there with the added responsibility of
chopping wood with the axe for the woodstove. This proves a significant skill for her later in her life.

When Hester turns eighteen, Sack finds herself looking at this young woman is who is now so grown up, Sack becomes angry and tells her off and locks her in her room for the night. After attacking her mother over this incident, Hester is sent to an institution where she observes the inmates being drugged into zombies and learns to avoid getting the knockout needle by behaving the way institutions like them to behave, subservient and subdued. Hester's subsequent escape can only lead to one conclusion.

It was very interesting to read Kathy Hunt's article in "The Weekend Australian" some weeks ago, on Criticism. In it she said, "as a reader, I too react emotionally to every book under review, but as a critic I must push through this barrier and find my way to an opinion." To me, as a fledgling critic, those comments were very helpful. To push through the emotions as you read One Foot Wrong, takes some doing. The imagery in it is both beautiful and disturbingly ugly. One feels for little Hester and the terrifying moments thrust upon her, not only by her ignorant parents but also by an institutionalized society. Yet we get to see a child's fresh world and a child's wonder through Hester's young eyes.

The tension in the book builds up, dark and sinister like a gothic novel, yet the climax is curiously ugly and unbelievable. This is the second young female author whose books I have read within a short space of time, both dealing with the shadowy side of humanity. It doesn't make for enjoyable reading, yet they are portraying what present day society needs to be made aware of; whether we like it or not.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 8, 2008 2:53 PM.

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