Saturday, October 15, 2011

Foal's Bread Readalong - Chapters 7 to 13

I sat down this morning and read this week's chapters 7 through 12 while my son was playing cricket. It is probably some kind of reflection of how much I am struggling with this book that I gave a sigh of dejection when I realised that I should have read one more chapter.

I am not really sure what it is that isn't working for me in relation to this book. The language is challenging, the tone of the book is kind of dense. The characters have hope but as a reader you can't help but feel that hope is misplaced, certainly in the first half of the book.

In last week's post I tried to tip toe around this but I don't think I can do that this week.

I do know what one factor I am struggling with is but it is something that I can't talk about at length without kind of spoiling. I say kind of because this is revealed in the very beginning chapter of the book so it can't be a huge spoiler, but it does or rather, it should influence the characters for the rest of the book!


The main female character is Noah, and we learn very early on in the book that she was sexually abused by her uncle and had a baby as a result. We are left to assume what happens to the baby, as is Noah, and that aspect works okay for me in terms of her wondering about the child and feeling guilty about abandoning her child. Where it isn't working for me in terms of Noah's emotional reactions to being sexually abused.

Now, to be fair, sexual abuse is a hot button issue for me and so it does have to be very well written for me to read it, but having the choice to read or not read a book featuring these themes I would choose not to. There was nothing in any of the promotional material that I have seen that indicated that these are the types of issues that feature and in a way I feel kind of ambushed by it.

I guess the thing is that the character's emotional journey doesn't feel real to me, bearing in mind that we obviously don't see every waking moment of every day. Noah seems to have transitioned from young girl to teen to wife to mother with barely a nod to the emotional upheaval that each of these events would necessarily have to someone with that background.

Let me give you an example. One of the major issues in the story is the onset of a mysterious illness to Rowley who is Noah's husband. It is only as Rowley starts to get sick that we start to see the emotional effects on Noah - a volcanic tempo, drinking etc and to me they seem to be more of a reaction to those events rather than to her past. To be honest, I was a little relieved to see any reaction at that point.

Rowley is gradually losing feeling in his limbs and has lost sexual functionality as well. Noah is quite rightly feeling neglected in this area and so she tries to raise some interest. When that fails she basically thinks to herself  that at least my uncle wouldn't have let my effort go to waste.

I can only reflect on the stories that I know from various survivor's account, but I am pretty sure that none of the adult survivors of abuse that I know would have that thought pattern. When that happened, and it happened more than once, I actually felt physically sick.

I know that every survivor's story and reactions are different so maybe there are some who do have these thought patterns, but I can tell you right now that even after being by myself for more than nine years there is not one night that I lay in bed and think something like that about the man that abused me.

*****END SPOILER*****

It feels as though the focus of the book is about to shift from Noah and Rowley to their daughter Lainey, so I will keep reading, but at this stage I can't see this being a book that I will be able to say I enjoyed.  Then again, it may well be a book that keeps me thinking for a long time - hopefully not in a bad way.

To see what the other bloggers participating in the readalong thought visit the following links:

The Book Nerd Club
The Talking Teacup
My Journal of Becoming a Writer
Fantasy vs Reality
Slightly Addicted to Fiction
The Book Nook


  1. Hi Marg
    The cracks are starting to show re Noah's coping, for sure. It will be interesting to see how this element is handled over the remainder of the novel.

  2. I agree with you - the writing is way too subtle. But, I'm sure now that the characters are in turmoil. In the first reading, I didn't think so, and i thought it was way too easy for Noah to just get on with life. She also slipped into motherhood too easily. She gave up on high jumping too easily. However, on reading some other blogs on this book, I've thought that it's the passive response of a victim. She hasn't confronted anything yet. I'm also hoping that the book turns its focus to Lainey, but I think we've got a lot more of Noah's issues to come.

  3. I think I would also be uncomfortable with this book, and I am pretty darn sure that abuse victims don't ever really think those thoughts about their abusers. It sounds as though this author is writing of things she knows nothing about, and as sexual abuse is a hot button issue for me, I can't imagine that I would ever really enjoy reading this one. Very perceptive thoughts today, Marg. I agree with you totally.

  4. Thanks Zibilee. I would have liked to know that these issues were going to be discussed in the book!

    Jacqui and Mel, we will see how we go with Noah's issues next week.

  5. Hi Marg, I've found your discussion of this element of the story very interesting. This part has given me much pause for thought myself, although I have actually found it fascinating that a writer has chosen to discuss her reaction in this way - at least up until this point. I've finished reading the book now and I think the author has managed to look at this victim's experience in its totality. Also, the conflicting thoughts and emotions she has had. Her behaviour later in the book doesn't always match the thoughts she has been telling herself and I found that very revealing. I'm really interested to read your thoughts about this as the book goes on.

  6. I'm wondering if she had such a hard life (no mother, Dad who was a drunk and angry temper, no real home base, traipsing all over the land, worked to the bone, rough rough life) that the abuse from the old uncle was somehow confused with love and tenderness. He made her feel special (it refers to this in several places - I think in particular around the time Roleys health is failing and he cant pleasure her sexually anymore/meet her needs/make her feel special and lucky and loved). Many people who are abused talk of this confusion and conflict and guilt over enjoying some aspects of the abuse and being made to feel singled out/special. Its one of the grooming tactics abusers use to their advantage.

    1. Michele, definitely while she was a kid I could see that being a factor, but not as an adult.