Publication Date: April 20, 2014
Fourteen-year-old Kate Montgomery and her mother move across the country when Kate’s father becomes abusive. Kate’s life takes a turn for the worse in Philadelphia and she soon finds herself cutting as a release from the emotional pain.
I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a review.
Open Wounds is brutally honest look into the black hole of despair experienced by the traumatized. When Kate’s father becomes abusive, her mother makes the decision to relocate from their home in California to the mother’s childhood home in Philadelphia in order to be close to the mother’s parents, her only living relatives. The mother is a destructive emotional vampire and Kate is unsupervised and unprotected. Open Wounds is a dark tale of abuse, neglect and self-abuse. It is a cycle of destruction. Setting the story in the early ‘80s gives Ford a blurred line of what is appropriate and what might have been overlooked and the freedom a child might have. Though fourteen, a child in school with bruises today might be reported to C.P.S. while then it was “kids get scraped up”. His first person construction allows the narrator to tell a raw story of terrible events. Kate matter-of-factly tells us the hurt and pain and I don’t know about other readers, but I skipped ahead as things progressed to see if this was a tale from the grave. Open Wounds does have faults. Grady, the mother’s boyfriend, is a bit of a stock abuser. His actions are brutal and graphic and, fitting with the style of the story, matter-of-fact. The mother left one abuser to slide into a situation that was worse. She does try to extricate herself from the situation, but she’s as lost in the spiral of hopelessness and it soon becomes clear that if there was any hope for Kate, it will not come from the woman closest to her. Kate says on Page 147 that she misses having a mother and the reader just wants to hug this character and tell her everything will be okay. Each event and each page is a new figurative cut on her soul as she literally cuts her skin.
Kate makes a friend in Philadelphia named Marie. A child who has been abused from an early age who seems light-hearted and up for anything and perhaps a touchstone for her new friend. Marie also seemed to be from central casting. She’s immersed in this manic recklessness. There’s a veil of worldly toughness hiding a child perversely looking for attention. Not to give anything away, but this character leaves the story rather abruptly leaving a void for our primary character in that we are the only sounding board she has left. We can only watch as she descends further into the horror of a life of perpetual abuse and exploitation.
The first-person narrative flow makes this a very personal story. It’s a secret told by Kate to her audience. Ford’s use of an adult looking back to her fourteen-year-old self brings a smooth sophistication to the flow. The subject was a tough one to read and not something I can say that I particularly enjoyed, but that these situations exist is important for us to remember as humans. Children are being abused as I write this review, children are neglected as I write this review; children are cutting themselves to distract from emotional pain as I write this review. I hated reading this story. It broke my heart. I do, as a reader, feel as though I have experienced a well-written and important piece. There is graphic abuse and violence in Open Wounds and scenes that will be really hard for more sensitive readers. The graphic scenes are in no way gratuitous, but work as building blocks for the end product which is powerful.
If you like stories of the human experience, buy Open Wounds today.
Brandon Ford is a horror and suspense author known for the novels Crystal Bay, Splattered Beauty, and Pay Phone. He has also written three collections: Decayed Etchings, Merciless and Coffee at Midnight (scheduled to be released this summer). He currently resides in Philadelphia.