When you call your latest book ‘Retard’, it is sure to provoke a reaction. Daniel I. Russell’s latest release is a brutally realistic story about child abuse written through the eyes of both the abuser and the abused. The word ‘Retard’ is one that (thankfully) we don’t hear of all too much these days. It is an awful word though I can see why Russell chose it as the book as it is set during the late 1980s, a time when the word was thrown around almost casually, particularly at school where I heard it myself on numerous occasions. Russell’s novella is certainly not easy reading but then we live in a time where living isn’t easy. I believe that it is good to read something that challenges you, something a little different, a little bit controversial if you like and Russell has certainly done that here.
This short tale about young Wesley and the horrors he endures at the hands of his mother is both unflinching and uncomfortable. The story is a bit of a departure from Russell’s usual work and it shows that he is not afraid of exploring different themes. Wesley’s torment at the hands of his mother is very explicit and on more than one occasion I had to take a breather from reading. Russell hasn’t simply written this book for shock value. The subject matter is handled well and the characters are fully realized. Emotions will certainly run high during reading that is for sure. The novella length works well as the pressure Christine finds herself under builds and builds throughout the book building momentum and driving towards a dramatic conclusion. You know pretty early on that there will be no happy ending with this one, though the books conclusion sure did surprise and kind of knock me over.
I think that this will be a real Vegemite of a book. A love it or hate it read that will no doubt get people talking. For me it is a powerful, thought-provoking story that will leave a stain on the memory for some time to come. Well done, Mr Russell.
Pick up a copy of ‘Retard’ from here.