Cut by Patricia McCormick
Published May 1st 2011 by Push (first published October 30th 2000)
From Goodreads: "A tingle arced across my scalp. The floor tipped up at me and
my body spiraled away. Then I was on the ceiling looking down, waiting to see
what would happen next."
Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside.
Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak.
But Callie can only stay silent for so long....
I didn't know what to expect going into this book. I had a brief encounter with the phenomenon of cutting in Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls and I was surprised at the lack of compassion I felt then. I thought it was perfectly vile, selfish and fell under the blanket concept of "things that are done to get attention." I think the difference in perspective in the two books made all the difference for me. I did not like Lia in Wintergirls, and I just adored little Callie. Silly though it may seem, I was willing to try to understand Callie, because I felt she deserved it. Callie, however twisted it may seem, had a very sound reason for her self-inflected violence. It made perfect sense in her mind, even if it didn't to others. I cared so deeply for Callie that I was willing to set aside my prejudice and listen to her. Which is the very point of the story. I can admit now that McCormick's smack down smarted and made me feel a little ashamed. Kudos. I deserved it.
Callie's place within her family has taken on an almost wraith-like form. A little brother with chronic asthma, a very, very, very (add a few more verys) weak mother and a cowardly father make up what Callie knows as family. Her parents are so engrossed in their own self pity that they fail to notice that their daughter is fading, blending into the background so that maybe no one will notice that she carries a secret- she feels it is all her fault. Everything. And since she goes unnoticed, no one bothers to ask, so Callie never tells.
We all continually beat ourselves up over a certain amount of self made guilt that we harbor, believing that something is our fault, regardless of the truth. It would shock us to discover that were we to voice our account of our supposed wrongs, we would be the only one pointing the finger at ourselves. So much of what we perceive is imagined. I guess the balance lies in knowing when we've shouldered enough, and simply need to tell someone to relieve the pressure. For Callie, there was no one to listen, and the pressure grew until it was either explode or find an outlet that could release some steam. For her it was a simple cut, nothing major, just enough, to release the tension. My heart ached for her, not for what she was doing, but because she did what she did and no one so much as batted an eye.
This was such a tough story for me because, well, I'm a tough chick with the possibly equally self destructive ability of being able to tell the world to go to hell. I could never hurt me and I have a hard time understanding others who would willingly hurt themselves. I've felt helpless only a handful of times in my life. But I've always known what Callie did not, and that's if you scream loud enough, people are forced to listen. Callie didn't know that it was OK to scream because no one ever taught her to use her voice to defend herself and her own sanity. I blame her selfish, pathetic little snit of a mother who lacked the strength to care for both of her children at once and sacrificed the emotional health of one for the physical well being of another. To me that's almost a form of abuse.
I was grateful for the fairytale tie in that became the ending. Something good that came from outside Callie needed to happen. As great as it was that she made the breakthrough that she did, I would have felt a bit cheated if the story had ended with her still feeling detached from her family.
I'd like to pass my copy on as a sort of penance for being a narrow minded asshole. There are good lessons in this book and maybe I'm not the only one who needs to learn them.
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