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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The not-so simple life
I picked up a copy of My Abandonment from Annie Blooms Books a few weeks ago. It's a fictionalized take on Frank and Ruth, a father and daughter who were discovered living in an elaborate homestead in Forest Park a few years ago. They were the subject of plenty of local media scrutiny and the two later disappeared after attempts were made to usher them back into society. Frank and Ruth left behind a relief fund, plenty of unanswered questions and no one seems to know what happened to them.
Author Peter Rock's novel is devoted to theorizing what life must have been like for Ruth, dubbed here as Caroline, and the motives that fueled her father's desire to keep her almost entirely hidden from civilization. The first act of My Abandonment focuses on his attempts to educate and provide for his daughter while ducking authorities and the various miscreants that reside in the park. After they're discovered and relocated to a small town farm, Rock makes an educated guess about the family's fate as they drift through the dark corners of Portland and the rest of the state.
In tone and spirit, My Abandonment shares a few similarities with The Road, Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic ode to a father's indomitable love for his offspring. Rather than fleeing cannibals and an encroaching nuclear winter, Rock's protagonists devote their lives to running from predominantly imagined threats. Like The Road, the novel is equal parts disturbing and heartbreaking. The fact that it's based on a true story makes it all the more haunting.