The Kid: I Wanted More Than Shock Value
After reading the novel, The Kid by Sapphire I needed some serious R&R! To say it was an effort would be a huge understatement. I expected to be challenged by the author, Sapphire, but hadn't expected to be skipping pages in frustration.
When I was offered the opportunity to review the newest book written by Sapphire, I jumped at the opportunity. After watching the movie Precious in 2009, I had fallen in love with the main character Precious. The movie was based upon a book Push which had been written by Sapphire.
Sapphire had ended her last book, Push, with the main character, Precious, finding hope in her new baby Abdul. Baby Abdul clearly brightens her dark life and closes with HIV positive Precious wondering how long she will have to love him.
The Kid begins when Abdul is nine years old, on the day of his mother’s funeral. Sapphire writes his younger character well; I was able to get to know this loving young boy and was deeply troubled by his pain. With the death of his mother, Abdul is sent to live in a foster home where he suffers unspeakable abuse at the hands of a foster brother. It is here that his mind begins to splinter and Sapphire’s writing takes on a different style, reflecting Abdul’s inner thoughts.
It took patience and some time rereading portions at this stage of book, but it was worth it. Abdul lasts only one week at the foster home before ending up in the hospital with a concussion and inner ear damage. Sapphire writes the effects of the concussion via Abdul’s thoughts which at first is disconcerting but once I realized what the injury was it was starkly clear.
Abdul is sent to live at St. Ailanthus School; he receives an excellent education and a strong sense of structure which had been missing since his mother’s death. I settled into a comfortable feeling which was quickly snatched away as I read about the horrific sexual abuse the Catholic brothers perpetrated upon Abdul. My heart broke as I felt this boy’s mind becoming lost in his fantasy world with his alter ego “Crazy Horse”. Abdul stumbles upon a love for dance when he attends an African dance class and it feels like he may have stepped back from the brink of madness through dance.
Just as I was feeling this outrage for Abdul, revulsion overcame me as I read about his sexual abuse of other, younger boys at St. Ailanthus School. Sapphire allows us to see into the deranged mind of a molester, to be horrified and yet hoping Abdul will follow in his mother’s lead into a life of love.
This novel continues with Abdul leaving St. Ailanthus School, still angry and confused; doing anything it takes to continue dancing.
The second half of the novel was truly difficult to read; it became even more disjointed as we spend more time in Abdul’s mind. We do realize some family history, assuming the reader takes the time to decipher reality from Abdul’s fantasies.
While I found this to be an amazing story, I found myself skimming paragraphs and then pages as Sapphire wrote in essay style explanations. Sapphire delves far too deeply into the confusing mind of Abdul. Sapphire did spend a brief period pondering the effects of environment upon child’s development, but far too much time lost in Abdul’s mental instability. Sapphire lost me within the shock-value of the graphic details, where she could have drawn me in with the story alone.
I would only recommend this book to someone with a strong stomach, patience and determination to decipher reality from the character’s fantasies.