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Tuesday, December 1, 2015


The Wisdom of Perversity -- Rafael Yglesias
Algonquin Books
384 Pages

Isn’t it strange how sometimes the people we’re closest with throughout high school oftentimes become complete strangers as we leave school behind and embark on the riddled path of adulthood? How is it that those friends we shared so much with can so easily disappear from our lives? The Wisdom of Perversity by Rafael Yglesias explores a darker reason behind the breakup of a group of school friends.

Set in the late 1960s, Brian and Jeff grew up as best of friends. Living in the same building, they were nearly inseparable through their young, teenage years.  Jeff’s cousin, Julie stayed for an extended visit one summer. Seperately, the three of the them lived through a darkness that slowly eroded their friendships to the point where they no longer spoke to each other as adults.

As adults, Brian is a successful writer, while Jeff is a world famous movie director. When one of Brian’s books is optioned for a movie, the first choice by everyone, except Brian, is to have Jeff direct. The connection brings up the bad memories that drove them apart four decades earlier. With Julie in tow, Brian confronts Jeff about the darkness that enveloped their friendship.

This novel explores how child abuse and molestation affects people long after the events occurred. It destroys lives and friendships. Even with the confirmation that all three youngsters lived through the same nightmares, the friendships are irrevocably damaged.

Yglesias, by his own admission, was abused by a man at the age of eight. His previous novels were somewhat autobiographical, and one wonders if this new novel might detail some of the events from his own childhood. If so, the author brings a startlingly vivid picture of an evil we would rather not talk about.

The author builds characters that are delivered with stark realism. In moments when reliving their childhoods, the characters are torn between right and wrong. They were brought up to believe that adults should be respected and they should follow directions given by those adults. When that trust was violated, the children were not sure whether to acquiesce or fight it.

The characters moved through innocent childhood, questioning the violation of that innocence, and the startling realization that their trust was taken by someone who should have been there to protect them. Their confusion in the book was the same as the reader’s as more and more of the interaction between Klein and the children was unveiled.

This novel takes the taboo subject of child molestation and pedophilia and thrusts it right in our face. This is not a comfortable novel to read. It should not be. Rafael Yglesias sheds light on this, daring us to question our own notions of propriety. Some other reviewers have said that this book shows an ugly side, that these subjects should not be so graphic, nor bandied about. I beg to differ. If we put a real, human face to these degradations, then maybe we can stop them. Hiding these events or pretending it doesn’t happen doesn’t make it any less likely to happen, or any less traumatizing for anyone involved.

With The Wisdom of Perversity, Rafael Yglesias delivers a stunning exposé on the effects of childhood molestation and sets it in vivid detail. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is a well-written novel meant to shock the reader and to make he or she think. When the pages run out, there are still people out there living with lingering effects from crimes such as the one portrayed in this book.

+Craig Bacon sometimes has no idea what to say. This is one of those times. You can follow him on Twitter at @hippieboy73.



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