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A Brother's Journey: Surviving a Childhood of Abuse

A Brother's Journey: Surviving a Childhood of Abuse

4.0 76
by Richard B. Pelzer

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Mom has no one like David around to beat on anymore. I am more afraid of her than ever...I get in more trouble for anything I do or say. Now I find that I'm always in trouble and I don't know why. Now that David is gone, I'm afraid that she will try to kill me, like she tried to kill him. I'm afraid that she will treat me like an animal like she did him. I'm afraid


Mom has no one like David around to beat on anymore. I am more afraid of her than ever...I get in more trouble for anything I do or say. Now I find that I'm always in trouble and I don't know why. Now that David is gone, I'm afraid that she will try to kill me, like she tried to kill him. I'm afraid that she will treat me like an animal like she did him. I'm afraid that now I'm her IT. The Pelzer family's secret life of fear and abuse was first revealed in Dave Pelzer's inspiring New York Times bestseller, A Child Called "It," followed by The Lost Child and A Man Called Dave. Here, for the first time, Richard Pelzer tells the courageous and moving story of his abusive childhood. From tormenting his brother David to becoming himself the focus of his mother's wrath to his ultimate liberation-here is a horrifying glimpse at what existed behind closed doors in the Pelzer home. Equally important, Richard Pelzer's touching account is a testament to the strength of the human heart and its capacity to triumph over almost unimaginable trauma.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this gripping, deeply troubling memoir, a follow-up to his brother David's bestselling A Child Called It, Pelzer reveals the unyielding suffering he says he experienced at the hands of his depraved mother growing up in the 1970s. Once David, the elder of the two, was removed from the household, the author, by this account, became the target of their mother's alcohol-induced rage. As Pelzer details his outward struggle to survive-learning to fall asleep with his eyes open, for example-and his internal efforts to understand and rise above his circumstances, he assaults readers with the graphic facts, told in surprisingly matter-of-fact language, about being beaten bloody for falling asleep when he was supposed to be awake, and being forbidden to bathe and forced to eat scraps from a dog bowl. Family members (including Pelzer's father), neighbors and teachers were aware of the abuse but did nothing to help, and Pelzer credits outsiders, especially his friend Ben, with finally "allowing" him to see himself more clearly. By looking back at-and then releasing-the image of the skinny, red-haired boy who wanted nothing more than his mother's love, Pelzer discovers his true spirit, which he shares courageously and selflessly here in the hope of healing himself, as well as raising awareness of and preventing child abuse. Agent, Jim Schiavone. (Jan. 5) Forecast: Print ads and a radio satellite tour to 25 markets will draw in readers who were riveted by 1995's A Child Called It (interestingly, though, Pelzer doesn't comment on It, which came under scrutiny because of allegations that its account was embellished). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Pelzer family has become famous for keeping secrets. In Dave's best-selling memoirs, he recounted his abuse at his mother's hands. In A Brother's Journey, Richard, the youngest of the boys, adds another dimension to the family saga. Outsiders, including teachers and neighbors, were less likely to get involved in family situations when the Pelzer brothers were growing up in the 1970s. While they were aware that Mrs. Pelzer, who suffered from depression and abused alcohol, had tried to kill Dave-he had been placed in foster care-and that Richard had become the target of her abuse, they did nothing to intercede on the boys' behalf. Pelzer's story is a testament to the human heart's capacity to overcome obstacles and trauma. Narrated by Joshua Gates, this work is recommended for public libraries with large collections of audiobooks.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gut-wrenching recollections of the horrendous, years-long abuse inflicted on the author by his alcoholic, emotionally disturbed mother, and of his participation in the similar torture that his brother David described in A Child Called "It" (1999). Pelzer has a guilty conscience, it seems, and so-for therapeutic reasons-one of his aims here is to explain why he was a coconspirator in the mental and physical tormenting of his older brother some 30 years ago. As a young child, he states, he lived in constant fear that he would replace his brother as the one of the five sons their mother singled out for particularly brutal treatment. In the interest of self-preservation, then, he became Mom's accomplice, purposely creating situations that would arouse her wrath and lead to harsh punishment of David. After a time, he reports, he came to relish "the bitter sweetness of causing him harm." Finally, in 1972, the authorities removed David from the family, and eight-year-old Richard, as he had feared, became the new object of his mother's cruelty. Meanwhile, another brother took his place as her "Little Nazi." What Pelzer was subjected to beggars the imagination: Mom's tactics included bloody violence, degradation, and humiliation. Sometimes, though, the author's memory seems suspect: Could anyone physically swallow four mouthfuls of Tabasco sauce, as he asserts he was once forced to do? It's also hard to understand why no one intervened, since Pelzer makes it clear that relatives were aware of his mother's drunkenness and mental instability, neighbors witnessed the beatings, a nurse at a local hospital recognized as child abuse the battery his body had received, and school authorities hadpreviously seen the need to rescue his brother David. The author's explanation is that community awareness of child abuse is much higher today than it was in the 1970s. If so, disturbing accounts by survivors like this one must take some credit for the change. Corroborates David's memories, but provides no special insight into abuse. Agent: James Schiavone/Schiavone Literary Agency

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A Brother's Journey

By Richard B. Pelzer

Warner Books

Copyright © 2005 Richard Pelzer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53368-8

Chapter One


Daly City, California, 1970

In the beginning, life was fun, life was exciting, and life was good. As a five-year-old, I was tender in age and yet I was cruel and mean. I was happy to watch my brother as he was beaten or forced to perform some disgusting punishment. It was exciting to watch. It is horrifying to remember.

I WANTED TO BELIEVE that we were a middle-class family in a middle-class San Francisco Bay Area suburb. The house was modest, as were all the houses on Crestline Avenue. There were four or five different styles of houses on the street. Each one was painted differently, and yet there was a pattern on the street that reminds me of the famous pastel houses of San Francisco's Rainbow Row. Our house was bright pink. The outside trim was pink; even the concrete steps were pink. Next door had a slightly different layout and was painted in two tones of brown. As you walked down the street, the colors of the houses would eventually repeat themselves to form a pattern. Every family on the street had pride in their yards and their houses.

There were two dozen kids on the street, and most of them were within a few years of me in age. The boys all had bicycles and who knows what the girls had. Who cared? They were girls. They didn'tplay football, basketball, or dodgeball; they were just girls. The boys would often ride bikes around the street in packs. Mostly to show off the new seats or handlebars they just got.

I recall particular early memories about Mom but very few about Dad. He just was seldom there. He was almost invisible. I remember Dad occasionally being in the house, but always in the background. I don't know if he had already moved out or if he was just never there anymore. It's almost as if he was a tenant, not participating in the lives of his kids. I'm not sure if it was always that way. Perhaps before I came along things were different. Maybe Dad and Mom were happy then. Maybe they were a real family then. I don't know. I don't have many other memories about my father. I simply didn't know him.

Mom made a show of nurturing "tradition" and "family." She worked very hard at making elaborate dinners and setting the table with Hawaiian tablecloths or Chinese dishes, stemware, and tableware, depending on what she created for dinner. I used to love sitting at the table with my own Chinese teapot and decorative dishes that only I used. Each of us had a set, and each one was a different pattern and color from the rest. Those table settings always made each of us feel special. From Hawaiian to Chinese to German themes and cuisine, Mom made dinner a special event. The table was usually set better than in most restaurants in San Francisco. Candles, linen napkins, and silver always made the dining table sparkle.

One of my best memories was constantly fighting with my younger brother, Keith, over a certain table setting. Whenever dinner was just plain baked ham, sweet potatoes, bread, corn, and applesauce, the table was set with the everyday dishes. There was one particular plate that had a chip out of the flower pattern and one fork that had a line near the top of the handle, as if something had melted a mark across the handle. Over the years Keith and I would fight over who would set the table. The rivalry over whose seat was set with the broken plate and fork was never-ending. Always in fun, but completely serious, we would swap knives and plates ten times behind each other's backs-even after the table was set. We mocked each other in defeat as dinner eventually started. The victor (whichever one of us ended up with the "broken fork" or "broken plate") shamelessly repeated:

"I got the broken fork. I got the broken fork."

Drive-in movies were always special events. One of the first movies I recall seeing was Disney's Bambi at the drive-in, and I was happy with the togetherness we shared as brothers. But camping was even more fun. We camped as a family-Mom, Ross, Scott, Keith, and me. Dad never camped with us, and I recall David on a camping trip only once. Nonetheless, their absence didn't change the fact that "the family" was camping. The five of us were "the family."

Mom had a habit of spontaneously announcing that we were going. Within two hours of the announcement, Mom and the boys had the car loaded and were off to one of the local campgrounds. Ross, Scott, Keith, and I would be sitting in the car waiting for Mom in high anticipation. It was always fun to be spontaneous; so many of my camping memories are vibrant and so real that they seem as if they occurred only yesterday. But sometimes, when I think back to those times, I can't recall the color of our sleeping bags or the color of the tent.

Some weekends, Mom would take us on day trips to the beach. The drive to Thornton Beach on the Pacific Ocean was short; it was only about twenty minutes from our house. The anticipation was too much for any five-year-old, and was overwhelming for me at that age. The beach was one of the few places we went as a family in public and were allowed to exercise the normal relationships shared among most brothers. Tossing a football from brother to brother was always part of the beach experience for us, and deliberately skipping one brother's turn just to start a fight was inevitable. Ross was about eleven, Scott was about eight, and Keith was a newborn.

When I think back to when all of us were living together, it is not clear if there were five boys or four. It was normal for Ross, Scott, and myself to be involved in some sport or game or brotherly challenge. David was rarely there. He was never allowed to play or speak to us. He was expected to be silent and only watch as the other boys played and shared with one another. Sometimes I remember David being there, and other times I don't. So many times he was left behind in the house, just not part of our daily lives. He was part of the background-something that you know is there but isn't important.

It has been difficult for me to force myself to remember David because I have buried those memories for so many years. As an adult, I am shocked to remember what was being done in that house. I am deeply ashamed of my own childhood participation in the horrific events. From my earliest memories, unspeakable acts of violence were happening in our family that I couldn't understand at the time. As a child, I didn't know that these acts never should have happened or been allowed to happen. The violence was a part of daily life before I can even remember.

The harsh truth is, my childhood was a lie. Beneath the surface our family was anything but normal. There were horrible secrets in the backs of each of our minds. We all knew what they were and yet never talked about them. We were afraid to.


Excerpted from A Brother's Journey by Richard B. Pelzer Copyright © 2005 by Richard Pelzer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Brother's Journey 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 76 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The really disgusting brother was Scott who was still abusing Richard at 17. Like David's books Richard's story is just too detailed, too surprising, too complex and has too much psychological depth to have been fabricated. The book will grip you from beginning to end but be prepared to be a little disappointing by the ending, there is obviously another book waiting in the wings. I am sorry that Pony felt ill to see Richard receive praise for his bravery, but I, on the other hand, felt ill for the obvious reasons when I read this book. I felt ill knowing that these boys suffered so much at the hands of someone who was supposed to protect them. It's about time one of David's brother stepped up to the plate and admitted the abuse occured and this book is a shining achievement. I am disgusted with anyone who could read this book and then deny the truth it expresses. From my own personal experience of an abusive mother the pattern that both Dave and Richard describe and their responses to it are psychologically accurate. But the interesting part of this book is the insight it provides for psychologists, social workers and the families of abused children concerning the impact of abuse on the more favored children in the family. Most books about child abuse don't get into this aspect of family life, and I found the added perspectives to be very revealing and interesting.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings about this book. First off, it's a very sad story in itself. No child deserves to go through any type of abuse, EVER. He had to endure years of physical and mental abuse. I can't imagine how he must have felt, and I know it's wrong to compare his abuse to his brother's abuse, because any abuse is bad. However, I feel like his perspective on his abuse is off (but who am I to judge?) He says over and over in his book that he was just like his older brother David, his replacement, and this sort of ticks me off. He has a warm bed to sleep in. He gets fed. He's allowed to bathe and to play outside. He's got it good compared to what his brother went through. I know his life still sucked and that it was WRONG of his mother to treat him this way, but still...I don't think he was David's replacement. If he was, he would have gotten it way worse. I do sort of feel as if he is trying to piggyback off his brother's success a little bit, by making his story seem to be a continuation of his brother's, when it is entirely different. The way he writes his story just confuses me...his words MAKE me compare him to his brother, because he keeps saying he's his replacement, but there really is no comparison because they are way different. He changes his story a bit here and there too, and it's real frustrating to read. I'm glad he got out alive though, just like his brother.. I kind of think I would have liked this book more if it talked about David a little bit more and some of the things he and his brother saw/heard.
a_david_fan__ More than 1 year ago
Richard waited about 30 years after his brother's book to write this. Many of the things aren't true according to David's stories and despite the fact that there is a quote from David on the front, I don't believe it because David said he never talked to any of his brothers after the death of his mother and she died in the late 80s, early 90s and this book was published in 2005.

Although it is heart wrenching and sad, it resembles David's story all too much and I don't think that he should have waited this long if it were real.

David's books triumph this book any day and I believe Richard made the whole thing up for money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
although this has potential to be an interesting story, it is very poorly written. the guy is obviously not a professional writer. he also contradicts himself a lot, several times quite obvious mistakes that you would think one of the editors would've caught.
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This was a really good book and i really liked it, except for it was really sad! :(
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book,highly recommend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think no child should go through this karma will get their mother
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this was a beautiful addition to his brother's book. I think Richard Pelzer did a wonderful job on this memior and was very careful not to try to step on his brother David's toes. He was looking for a way to have closure in his life too. The mother was evil and most people would wonder about David's siblings and what happened to them. This book also helped me understand how sick their mother really was. I would recommend this book to everyone. This book was hard to put down. Would love to one day find out what happened to the rest of the Pelzer children!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jazmingarcia More than 1 year ago
"A Bother's Journey Surviving a Childhood of Abuse" is a sad story of a boy named Richard suffering a childhood of abuse. After David from "A Child Called It" left Richard replaced him and was tortured for several years bu his mother. Before David was taken away Richard acted like mother's "little Nazi." When David left Richard was terrified he was going to take his place but deep down inside he knew it was going to happen and he couldn't do anything about it. Richard spent most of his time avoiding his mother's beating while studying her every move from afar. Richard wanted an upper hand. He came to the conclusion that his mother suffered from a mental disorder and the drinking just made it worst. Mother always found a way to discourage Richard's hope and it worked. Richard felt alone in the world without anyone to help him. Richard's father, David and his older brother Ross had abandon him. He slowly began to loss hope and hated everyone. Everyone knew what was happening to him but no one did anything to help. Soon after Richard discovered that he was never going to win this war between his mother he committed suicide. All he ever wanted was for his mother to live him but that was never going to happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sassypickle More than 1 year ago
As I read Dave Pelzer's books, I often wondered what his brothers were up to and whether they were also abused by their mother. Richard Pelzer's book is honest and emotional. He does not hold back and shares with the reader his most shameful thoughts.
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ladail27 More than 1 year ago
I loved the story. It is so sad and breaks your heart but is so well written. I have read all his brothers books "A child called it" and so on. Its really nice to get another look at thier lives from another point of view. A must read if you have ever read A child called it. 4 thumbs up!!