“What Creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman’s face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?”
Kit Kat was born in Athens, Greece. Her mother was a prostitute, and their protector was a pimp. After an early childhood marked by violence, homelessness, and time in an orphanage, a Greek-American woman adopted her and moved her to New York. Kit Kat was eight years old, with a new name, a new country, and a new mother who tried to silence her memories and experiences. She sought refuge in books, and after a failed suicide attempt at the age of thirteen, she discovered Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This book saved her life, and at fifteen, Kit Kat begins to write letters to Jane Eyre as a means of surviving a childhood she still remembers, the family she left behind, and the new mother that refuses to acknowledge her past.
Kit Kat’s letters to Jane Eyre demonstrate the resilience and power that she derives from Jane’s own dark narrative and the parallels between their lives that include being neglected, unloved, poor, orphaned, and almost destroyed by the madwoman in their lives. This coming of age and semi-autobiographical novel is about family, loss, forgiveness, and the power of a good book.
Dear Jane; Wow! What a story. It is at once an immersive and bitterly disturbing story, you can’t look away or put it down even for a minute until you’ve absorbed every word of it. I’ve read books on child abuse, but it never gets any easier whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. It’s always hard to contemplate that anyone would be filled with such self-hate that they would project such violence and hate onto their own children.
I love that the story brings with parts of the Classic tale of Jane Eyre (definitely have to go give it a reread), each page begins with a quote from this wonderful classic. It is indeed true that books have a difference in many of us bibliophiles lives at one point and in one form or the other.
This is also true for our protagonist Eketra Koutros, now renamed Kathryn by her adoptive mother. What would it be like to know your name and then lose it, only living on within your memory? Is it the right thing to do to a child at an age where the child recognizes their original name is changed because the parent(s) feel more comfortable?
I love that Kat tells us what each person’s Greek name means and how she views that person by that meaning.
“Her name was Athanasia Koutros. She was my mother. The one who gave birth to me. In Greek, her name means “the immortal one,” and I find this quite ironic, because, even though I left her so many years ago, the memory of her crawls back to me, burrowing beneath my skin, cementing itself against my ribs so that I find it hard to breathe. Whenever I think of her, my breath gives way, my chest heaves with force, and words escape me, since I cannot reveal her existence.”
Kathryn or Kit Kat as her friends calls her finds solace within the pages of Jane Eyre, she’s living a life similar to the character of Charlotte Bronte and so she writes to her after almost harming herself, because of all the rage she feels inside for the way she’s been treated from childhood to present day living in America after being adopted; she’s haunted by a past that is filled with loathing and abuse at the hands of some those closest to her.
Charlotte Bronte becomes her most trusted friend, her confidante, her role model and she tells her everything she cannot voice to her adoptive mother or anyone else, in this way we learn about her childhood through her college years. For she fears retribution because she was forbidden to speak about her past before and paid the price. Her adoptive mother, Evangelia “Ann” a single woman, with an unimaginable cold disposition, “what a bitch”. I mean what kind of mother would be hell-bent on silencing a child’s voice and her memories because she wants a child with a clean slate as if that can happen with a child who already knows part of herself at that age.
Within the pages of this diary, Kat confesses her deepest and darkest secrets, she narrates in an earnest and strong voice as she tells us everything that has taken place in her life from the age of eight. There comes a time when all of us who haven’t yet find our voice will do so and when that happens, we realize that in doing so we’ve not only helped our selves but others as well.
The subject matter within these pages are dark and complex, it’s realizing the instance you’ve lost your voice and having the courage to find it again.
This book is about the loss of self/identity, loss of family, love and the absolute power books have in saving a life when it’s needed the most.
If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
Title: Dear Jane
Author: Marina DelVecchio
Release Date: January 3, 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Number of Pages: 179
About The Author
Marina DelVecchio is a college professor of literature and women’s studies and lives in North Carolina with her family. Her work can be found online at Ms Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Tishman Review, Her Circle Ezine, BlogHer, and The New Agenda.
Categories: Book Review