Getting Rid of Ian: A Memoir of Poison, Pills, and Mortal Sins

Penelope James

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Kathy Pooler

3 months ago

In a pitch-perfect child’s voice, Penelope James captures the terror, sorrow and complexities of having a cruel and eccentric stepfather and a preoccupied, self-centered mother who does not protect her and her younger sister.

It is this voice with its vivid sensory details and believability that swept me into this story and kept me turning the pages. Through the resilience and precociousness of this young girl and her sister, they plot to get rid of a man who they view as an intruder in their lives. And in showing how outrageous he was—denying them bathroom privileges, terrorizing them with threats and throwing them out at night-- I understood their desire to get rid their lives of him.

James, a skilled storyteller, injected humor into her heart-wrenching conditions and crafted enough tension to keep me reading well past my bedtime. The story plays out in cinematic detail, seamlessly flowing from one scene to the next. The angst and desperation in these young girls is palpable. They long for their biological father who lives across the ocean in England and, although they cling to happy memories of him from the past, he has, for all intents and purposes, abandoned them. These girls are survivors and we know they will be alright in the end.

This is a heart wrenching and captivating memoir that would make a suspenseful movie. I highly recommend it.