Clara Ann was born with a cleft lip and a hole under her nose. Throughout her young life she is hospitalized with pneumonia and because her parents normally brought her in when she was at coma stage, she developed Osteomyelitis, an infection in the bone caused by other infections not being properly diagnosed. Without anesthetic, the bone is drained with a long needle until the infection has been removed.
Clara Ann suffers abuse from her older brother as well as her parents and after her father dies, her new step-father takes the abuse to a whole other level. When the sexual abuse begins, Clara Ann is confused by the comfort and the disgust it makes her feel. As the years go by, the rape doesn't stop and she is made to have an abortion.
During high school she becomes a speed skater and turns to alcohol and drugs to numb her pain. She is often raped and fondled by those around her and when she heads off to college she meets her future husband, who helps her beat her alcohol addiction and becomes a sturdy support network. Even after they have children, she continues with her AA meetings and works to relinquish the demons she has trapped within from the years of child abuse.
Determined to be a great mother, she home-schools her children, nurtures them, guides them and holds them when they are sick. Sometimes her children hate her but more often they love her and each of them grows to be a upstanding individual, with promising futures set before them.
Okay, how do I set this one up? That has been my biggest worry over this book because even though I am being lead to believe it is fiction, I cannot help but feel the under current emotion that haunts the prose within this book. The author has managed to capture an essence of truth behind each of the words shared. The reader cannot help but feel empathetic to the Clara Ann story.
This book is not written in your usual way. It sometimes starts and ends in mid-thought, other times its written as if its a movie script; one page may be poetry and another random family thoughts. Sometimes pictures are shared, their descriptions shared in a third person aspect, as if someone is looking at them through a microscope, allowing the reader to use their own imagination in the outcome.
One cannot help but feel for Clara Ann as you read her story and share her pain. As you fill your eyes with the people in the pictures, you cannot help but sense that something wasn't right, that something was off with this "loving" family. Things are pointed out that a regular observer may not notice when they first look upon the images. A ripped button here, a hand on a shoulder and a leer there, each piece given to the reader is like a piece of a huge puzzle and you are walking in the shadows trying to find all the parts in order to put it together.
While the reading was disturbing and haunting, it isn't a very long book and can be read within an hour(s). The portrayal of the characters was believable and heart wrenching to read. I loved how the author, without any semblance of direction, leads to you through her journey in life.
I commend "Clara Ann" for rising above the stereotypical concepts for child abuse victims and provided her own children with the correct structures in which to grow upon. Clara Ann is one of those rare breeds who becomes a better person instead of succumbing to the demons that must have always been pressing at her nature.
I would give The Clara Ann Burns Story a four and a half stars out of five. While I didn't find anything directly wrong with it, I would've loved to have had more shared with the reader. I realize that it is a difficult subject to address but I enjoyed the way the author, Heidi Ann Smith, shared the story with the reader and I found it an interesting approach to a difficult subject, each time I turned the page I wondered how the next incident was going to be shared. While I felt it is a thought-provoking and emotional read, I felt it was too short.
The Clara Ann Burns Story is an expression of child abuse and neglect witnessed through a patchwork of short prose reflections, poems, one minute plays, scholarly studies, and photographs. Daring in both content and structure, The Clara Ann Burns Story explores multiple genres and is courageously self-reflective.
** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! **