A Child Called Him – Dave Pelzer
This book is David Pelzer’s heartbreaking autobiographical account of the abuse he suffered from his mother. It is a story that afflicts the reader with multiple heartaches from beginning to end.
David Pelzer, the third of four brothers, grew up in what at first seemed like an ordinary home. It was a house where every day was ‘a new adventure’, with life’every day, sprinkled with magic’. It was a life where mum (Catherine Roerva) took her sons on day trips, where spring meant picnics, and mum and dad’seemed happy to lie next to each other on a blanket, sip red wine and watch their children play.
Then, almost overnight, Dave’s paradise was lost. His house has become Milton’s burning hell lake. Her mother has become unrecognizable as a human. She drank constantly, and when she cried ‘her voice changed from foster mother to wicked witch.’ From being a mother whose embrace always made Dave feel safe and warm, she became ‘The mother’-a frightening, appalling and sadistic figure.
‘The mother‘ grabbed Dave and slammed his face against the mirror. When she struck him, it was with such ferocious frenzy that ‘his blows seemed to last forever.’ She poured ‘ammonia‘ And ‘Clorox‘ in his throat until his brain screams. For her, he ceased to be a son but a slave and was no longer a boy but an “it”. She burned him on a hot stove and shoved a bar of soap down his throat to stop him talking. She roared at him, starved him and even fed him vomit and feces. ‘The mother’ even stabbed her child.
Although the school was a refuge from domestic torture, he was often so hungry that he stole food…Twinkies and other desserts’ of classmates. Because of this, he became a total pariah at school. No student would have anything to do with him. In the playground he was called ‘David the food thief.’ Each day came with torture and degradation.
Dave’s father, Stephen Joseph, who “had broad shoulders and forearms that would make any muscular man proud”, failed to protect his son. He was a muscular weakling who faced the decadence of his family by drinking excessively and cowardly turning his back on his beleaguered son. The story of Dave Pelzer is a monument of human courage. Dave’s youth belied his resilience to survive. Despite his mother’s savagery and his father’s indifference, he swore “not to yield, even unto death.”
Even after reading the book, it’s hard to understand how someone so young could endure such an ordeal for so long. His mother, Catherine, was a tormented brute. But, she was also cunning and slippery and often succeeded in explaining suspicions of child abuse from strangers. Like a greased beast, it was often difficult to pin her down.
But, young Dave was eventually rescued from his torture and found refuge with a foster family who loved him. He went on to serve his country in war and received praise from three US presidents. He is a bestselling author of five books, and a loving husband and father. He is now a man with a noble mission and an inspiration to thousands of defeated spirits around the world. This all happened as a result of his massive injuries as a child. From grief came growth, purpose, and even joy.
Unfortunately, many victims of child abuse never survive. When they do, they often continue the cycle of rage against society. Dave Pelzer’s tale is a disturbingly brilliantly written tale of wanton violence. There is almost no pain that does not contribute to the aggravation of the distress. The depth of Dave’s pain is etched in every word.
As we read the book, we find ourselves closer, and almost witnesses to the carnage of his childhood. Once the reader opens the book, it is impossible to put it down. And once it’s over, this sickening tale of violence lingers in the mind for a long time. If Catherine Roerva did not murder her son, she somehow killed him several times: his childhood, his innocence, his confidence, but fortunately not his will to live.