Tiger, Tiger

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A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011

A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

Tiger, Tiger is a Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title

One summer day, Margaux Fragoso meets Peter Curran at the neighborhood swimming pool, and they begin to play. She is seven; he is fifty-one. When Peter invites ...

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Overview

A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book for 2011

A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title

Tiger, Tiger is a Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction title for 2011

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title

One summer day, Margaux Fragoso meets Peter Curran at the neighborhood swimming pool, and they begin to play. She is seven; he is fifty-one. When Peter invites her and her mother to his house, the little girl finds a child’s paradise of exotic pets and an elaborate backyard garden. Her mother, beset by mental illness and overwhelmed by caring for Margaux, is grateful for the attention Peter lavishes on her, and he creates an imaginative universe for her, much as Lewis Carroll did for his real-life Alice.

In time, he insidiously takes on the role of Margaux’s playmate, father, and lover. Charming and manipulative, Peter burrows into every aspect of Margaux’s life and transforms her from a child fizzing with imagination and affection into a brainwashed young woman on the verge of suicide. But when she is twenty-two, it is Peter—ill, and wracked with guilt—who kills himself, at the age of sixty-six.

Told with lyricism, depth, and mesmerizing clarity, Tiger, Tiger vividly illustrates the healing power of memory and disclosure. This extraordinary memoir is an unprecedented glimpse into the psyche of a young girl in free fall and conveys to readers—including parents and survivors of abuse—just how completely a pedophile enchants his victim and binds her to him.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Margaux Fragoso's jarring story of sexual abuse would be gripping even if it had not been so well-told. As Alice Sebold notes, Fragoso's portrayal of the 15-year relationship between pedophile Peter Curran is "shocking, revelatory, and fearless." The encounter of this uneven pair began with an innocent chat at a public pool in New Jersey: Margaux was seven; Curran was 51. With methodical escalations, he gradually coaxed the vulnerable child into imprisoning secret acts. In Tiger, Tiger, she documents the insidious impact of their continued liaisons on every aspect of her young life. Fragoso's unsparing self-exposure cuts to the heart of these violations.

From the Publisher
Praise for Tiger, Tiger

Tiger, Tiger will start a thousand conversations. Margaux Fragoso achieves the unthinkable with empathic clarity: she humanizes a pedophile. In doing so, she makes his crime unimaginably more frightening. Her portrayal of their relationship is shocking, revelatory, and fearless. As the story of a victim, it is gripping; as a work of literature, it’s a triumph.” —Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

“In this gut-wrenching memoir of sexual abuse, [Margaux Fragoso] explores with unflinching honesty the ways in which pedophiles can manipulate their ways into the lives of children . . . Fragoso’s sense of alienation—Curran controlled her world for more than half her life—is palpable in her telling. Using her own diaries and the myriad letters, diaries, and photographs Curran left behind, Fragoso eloquently depicts psychological and sexual abuse in disturbing detail.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Disqueting . . . Culled from the four diaries she kept during the ordeal, Fragoso writes with searing honesty about her serpentine entanglement and of Curran’s calculated, menacing exploitation of her. Intensive psychotherapy and new motherhood provide a hopeful coda to her unspeakable experience. A gripping, tragic and unforgettable chronicle of lost innocence and abuse.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“You may think you’ve already decided about a child’s ordeal with a sexual predator, but under Margaux Fragoso’s command you will consider the richest depths of experience, terrible, bright, and beautiful. Fragoso writes with unguarded grace and provides a voice—real and haunting—for those children, everywhere among us, who are deprived of theirs.” —Susanna Sonnenberg, author of Her Last Death

Tiger, Tiger is stunning, in all the possible manifestations of that word.” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“Once in a generation, an essential book—a necessary book—comes along and challenges our bedrock assumptions about life. Margaux Fragoso’s Tiger, Tiger is that book. Family life, the corruption of innocence, sexual abuse, pedophilia—all are unflinchingly yet exquisitely rendered as Fragoso experienced them. You will never view childhood the same way after reading Fragoso’s monumentally important book.” —Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing

Library Journal
When seven-year-old Margaux befriended 51-year-old Peter at the swimming pool, her troubled mother approved; he seemed like a good influence. Not so, as we find out in this large and eerie-sounding memoir; after an increasingly dangerous 15-year relationship, Fragoso barely escaped with her life. Sounds fascinating, though the proof will be in the reading.
Kirkus Reviews

Disquieting memoir about the 15-year relationship between a child and a predatory sexagenarian.

Fragoso's New Jersey childhood consisted of sharing a bed in a slummy, cramped one-bedroom apartment with her mentally ill mother and hard-drinking, Army-veteran father, who worked as a jeweler. She was just seven when she met 51-year-old pedophile Peter Curran at a public pool in 1985 and subsequently invited to his home. Hopelessly unaware of the inappropriateness of the arrangement, her naive mother joined her daughter on a series of visits to Curran's expansive house—an interactive, wide-eyed wonderland alive with his two young sons and a vast array of kid-friendly pets. A perfect escape from her family life, Fragoso's chaperoned (then solo) visits became more frequent as Curran drew closer and more physically daring. At first, he'd discreetly hug and kiss her in the basement, then coerced her into clumsy, manipulative sexual advances, labeling his actions as "something that people in love, like we are, do together." Eventually, Fragoso's perceptive father forbade her from visiting Curran, who continued to take in a random series of female foster children. But the carefree whimsy of the author's childhood had already fallen victim to Curran's premeditated manipulation. After reuniting with him two years later (as her mother's sanity deteriorated), Fragoso became withdrawn, increasingly codependent and cooperative during their sex games. In wincingly frank, graphic scenes, the author intricately details her harrowing evolution from a doe-eyed innocent girl to a broken, emotionally scarred victim who, at 22, was further crushed after receiving Curran's 10 handwritten suicide notes along with the key to his car. Culled from the four diaries she kept during the ordeal, Fragoso writes with searing honesty about her serpentine entanglement and of Curran's calculated, menacing exploitation of her. Intensive psychotherapy and new motherhood provide a hopeful coda to her unspeakable experience.

A gripping, tragic and unforgettable chronicle of lost innocence and abuse.

Kathryn Harrison
It's testimony to Fragoso's narrative abilities that she can render both her own and Curran's points of view convincingly, as different…Written without self-pity, rancor or even judgment, Tiger, Tiger forces readers to experience Curran simultaneously as the object of a little girl's love and fascination and as a calculating sex offender who cultivates her dependence on him while contriving to separate her from anyone who might prevent his molesting her. Balanced uncomfortably between these antipodes, Tiger, Tiger is the portrait of a man who will disgust and alienate readers by a writer too honest to repudiate her love for him.
—The New York Times
Lisa Bonos
Told in a voice that combines childlike wonder with grown-up wisdom…Fragoso manages to tell a disturbing story beautifully, leading readers into the secret world she inhabited for decades and even inspiring a modicum of sympathy for the man who manipulated and abused her.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374277628
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaux Fragoso recently completed a PhD in English and creative writing at Binghamton University. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Literary Review and Barrow Street, among other literary journals.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Prologue 3

Part I

1 "Can i play with you?" 11

2 The two-storyhouse 20

3 A bad habit 27

4 Savages 37

5 Higher, Higher 46

6 "Eight is the Most Beautiful Age for a girl" 52

7 Karen, Mysister, Mysister 70

8 "Only if you want to" 83

9 "It's not wrong to love you" 89

10 "There's something very wrong with that man" 99

11 Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot 112

12 The flowering nightgown 120

13 Our little secret 132

Part II

14 The reunion 141

15 The dowry 157

16 Cathy and paul 171

17 Rescue me 179

18 Nina 188

19 The falls 202

20 "The devil made me do it" 212

21 Prettybabies 221

22 Tying the knot 227

23 The confessional 236

24 Stranger in the mirror 242

25 The dropout 255

26 The woman in the tree 269

27 The contract 276

28 "The tiger's spring" 280

Part III

29 Rivals 291

30 The loan 295

31 The inheritance 303

Afterword 317

Acknowledgments 321

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Reading Group Guide

"In one of his suicide notes to me, Peter suggested that I write a memoir of our lives together, which was ironic. Our world had been permitted only by the secrecy surrounding it; had you taken away our lies and codes and looks and symbols and haunts, you would have taken everything."

Margaux Fragoso was just seven years old when she met Peter Curran. Her mother had taken her swimming near their home in Union City, New Jersey. The neighborhood pool was packed with kids, but it was fifty-one-year-old Peter who caught Margaux’s attention. He was handsome and playful; both mother and daughter found themselves drawn to him. Soon they were making regular visits to his house, a getaway where fun and freedom reigned. Peter also gave them a chance to escape the ire of Margaux's domineering, volatile father.

As Margaux succumbed to Peter's manipulative charm, her fragile mother slipped further into mental illness. In a devastating paradox, her mother was obsessed with keeping lists of tragedies that made headlines. She never realized that a tragedy was unfolding right before her as Peter took possession of her little girl’s body, mind, and heart, inflicting untold damage over the next fourteen years. An unprecedented glimpse into the psyche of a predator and his trusting prey, Tiger, Tiger is also an extraordinary testimony to the human capacity for healing.

Whether you embark on the book's journey by yourself or with a group, this guide is designed to enhance your reading. We hope the following questions will enrich your experience of a childhood stolen and reclaimed.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Margaux Fragoso loved storytelling and role playing as a child, and Peter exploited these creative traits. How did her gift for narrative ultimately become part of her healing? How can the vividly written scenes of her memoir help others face the truth with clarity and courage?

2. As the ones who stayed home while others provided for them, what common ground did Margaux’s mother and Peter share? What does Margaux’s story tell us about the way children are sometimes forced to take on a care giving role?

3. Margaux describes the intense exhilaration of being with Peter, a high that nothing else could match. When has someone tried to blur your concepts of joy and harm, making you vulnerable to this sense of exhilaration?

4. Peter’s many animals were part of the allure for Margaux. How did they reflect his relationship to her, marked by captivity? Did the sight of his caged, domesticated animals encourage her to fantasize about being a wild animal?

5. How did your impressions of Poppa shift throughout the memoir? Did you sympathize with him, or did you blame him for making his wife and daughter long to escape?

6. How did Tiger, Tiger change the way you think of your own childhood? When you were a child, were there any adults you could turn to no matter what, or were you on your own?

7. One of the most haunting aspects of Margaux’s story is that many adults came close to uncovering the truth; even after Peter abused his daughters, he escaped scrutiny and was still able to become a foster father. And even after serving a jail sentence because of accusations made by his foster child, he was able to continue his relationship with Margaux. How did Peter keep Margaux’s mother and Inès fooled? Did the social worker unwittingly undermine her case against Peter, or did he and Margaux simply outsmart her? After reading Tiger, Tiger, what do you think is the best way to be vigilant without wrongly accusing members of your community?

8. Margaux reveals the barter system Peter established, though in fact their arrangement cost her dearly. How did Peter “compensate” Margaux? Margaux liked to fantasize about being a fierce adult woman, savoring her secret “marriage” to Peter; he fantasized about precisely the opposite image of her. Beyond the realm of sex, how did they gratify each other? What kept Peter from rejecting Margaux even as she grew into her twenties?

9. Though Peter damaged all aspects of Margaux’s young life, from her ability to form supportive friendships to her faith in unconditional love, she proved repeatedly to be a survivor, even after attempting suicide. Where did this kernel of strength come from? What nurtures strength in even the most wounded among us?

10. How does Peter’s occupation as a locksmith serve as a metaphor for his pedophilia? What gave him the tools to unlock so many vulnerable people, gaining their trust? Do you think Margaux could ever have “changed the locks” on her psyche if Peter had not committed suicide?

11. What can we learn from Peter’s memories of being a victim of abuse throughout his childhood? What would it take to transform society’s approach to this addiction, putting faith in rehabilitation?

12. Peter insisted that he did not sexually abuse Ricky. How did you react to this? Regardless of those claims, what harm did Miguel and Ricky experience in Peter’s household?

13. What did Margaux’s parents teach her about the roles of men and women? Were any of their lessons accurate? Who were your most powerful role models? Did they teach you the truth about the world?

14. How does Margaux’s voice shift in the epilogue, in which she is clear-eyed about the utter vulnerability of a child and the complete blame that belongs to an adult abuser? While reading the memoir, did you ever find yourself vulnerable to Peter’s logic?

15. Now the mother of a little girl and the bearer of a PhD, Margaux Fragoso is living proof of the hope and healing that can emerge even after years of abuse. She credits her recovery to writing and therapy, including new techniques for trauma survivors. Do you know of someone who could benefit from these therapies? If so, how could you begin a conversation to put them on the road to recovery?

PRAISE FOR TIGER, TIGER

“Tiger, Tiger will start a thousand conversations. Margaux Fragoso achieves the unthinkable with empathic clarity: she humanizes a pedophile. In doing so, she makes his crime unimaginably more frightening. Her portrayal of their relationship is shocking, revelatory, and fearless. As the story of a victim, it is gripping; as a work of literature, it’s a triumph.” —Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

“Once in a generation, an essential book—a necessary book—comes along and challenges our bedrock assumptions about life. Margaux Fragoso’s Tiger, Tiger is that book. Family life, the corruption of innocence, sexual abuse, pedophilia—all are unflinchingly yet exquisitely rendered as Fragoso experienced them. You will never view childhood the same way after reading Fragoso’s monumentally important book.” —Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing

“Tiger, Tiger is stunning, in all the possible manifestations of that word.” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“You may think you’ve decided already about a child’s ordeal with a sexual predator, but under Margaux Fragoso’s command, you will consider the richest depths of experience, terrible, bright, and beautiful. Fragoso writes with unguarded grace and provides a voice—real and haunting—for those children, everywhere among us, who are deprived of theirs.” —Susanna Sonnenberg, author of Her Last Death

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MARGAUX FRAGOSO recently completed a PhD in English and creative writing at Binghamton University. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Literary Review and Barrow Street, among other literary journals.

Reading group guide written by Amy Clements / Amy Root’s Wordshop, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
Rating Distribution

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(17)

4 Star

(22)

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(9)

2 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

    Simply breathtaking

    This book blew me away. It's gut-wrenching, dramatic, and impossible to put down. It made me cry. It made me open my eyes to this serious issue. If you have kids or will have them, you need to read this!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    More shock then story

    I was very interested in reading this memoir, as I am a fan of memoirs and I am a student at Binghamton University, where the author recieved her PhD.

    I read a number of reviews on this book, most of which were very accurate when they discuss the stilted writing style that occupies the majority of the book.

    Fragoso is telling the story of her repeated molestations and fourteen year relationship with a man that has repeatedly abused children. In Fragoso, he finds a perfectly malleable eight year old who he controls and warps. Fragoso starts her story at the very beginning, outlining her family life and her first meetings with her molester. In writing this, she attempts to capture a childs voice and viewpoint, which unfortunately rings false. At times, her descriptions are overly flowery and many of her similes and metaphors are simply unrelateable and outlandish. The author has a lot of trouble with realistic conversations, some of this may be due to the fact that she was piecing conversations together from memory and diaries, but her dialogue does not read naturally. It seems that a close editing would have really helped this book.

    The book achieves a more congruent flow once she reaches her teen years. Fragoso does have a tendency to drop in information rather late in the book that would have been helpful earlier on, and at times she goes over and above introducing characters that are extraneous.

    I think the author's purpose of the book, to shed light on an incident that had remained secret for so long, was executed. To me, the most interesting and well written parts of the book were the Prologue and the Afterword, both told in her contemporary voice. I think the whole memoir would have been much stronger if she had written it in her contemporary voice with flashbacks or analysis of what had occurred.

    Obviously, due to the subject matter, this book will be read and discussed in a number of arenas, so for that fact alone, it is certainly worth the read.

    Hopefully the author's future books will allow more of her voice to be heard, rather than the voices of her past.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    Touching story

    I enjoyed this memoir- it is hard to gind books so eye-opening while at the same time still stories. Sometimes it was a little hard to stomach... but it was honest and held a lot of truth.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    You won't put it down

    Fragoso gets caught in vice between her mentally abusive father and a pedophile with highly practiced manipulative skills.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2011

    A unique breakthrough

    It's rare to see the experience of sexual abuse told from the young woman's perspective. That alone makes this a profound and important work. What makes it truly amazing is that we too can experience all the varied emotions that it leaves in its wake. Many girls have to face abuse alone and in silence so it's great to see someone confront it with courage and strength.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    I loved the book with the detailed and at times my stomach becam

    I loved the book with the detailed and at times my stomach became tied in knots and I would pause than find myself opening it back up to continue to read it. I found myself reading Tiger Tiger until the end. Truly can understand at a child's point how this predator was actually someone she looked up too. Of course, the predator was so manipulative. I hoped that she would just stop wanted to see him,however, because of her family situation. Well I don't want to spoil the memoir. It's for sure an eye opener. Would recommend it. I feel the editing for this book was great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    Nikeheart

    HERE

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    Very good

    Impossible put down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Snowkit

    Pounces biteing it on the neck and killing it

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  • Posted February 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    What Amy Hammel-Zabin did in Conversations With a Pedophile, (by

    What Amy Hammel-Zabin did in Conversations With a Pedophile, (by bringing her readers into the mind of a Pedophile), Dr. Fragoso does for the victim of such a predator.  Reading Dr. Fragoso’s account of the years she spent enthralled with a “caring” older (by 43 years) man is the stuff of nightmares, horror stories made so, and drastically compounded by, the fact of what she speaks was her reality. Few books have caused as intense reactions within me than those I experienced as I read this first person account of a victim of childhood sex abuse.
    When Margaux Fragoso was 7-years-old, while she and her mother were in a park near her home, a man (Peter, who is older than her father) asked if he could join in her play.  Within a year of that meeting, he commits his first violation of his new, trusting friend.  For the next nine years he took advantage of her father’s volatility and her mother’s mental illness to repeatedly violate the young Margaux. After his health became such that he could no longer harm her sexually, he continued to manipulate her into being convinced that he was the only one who could truly love her. It was only with Peter’s death that the author found the freedom to write of this relationship and to see what had actually occurred within that connection.
      The book is a revelation of the experience of sex abuse.  The process Dr. Fragoso details is a classic example of what a victim of sex abuse becomes in order to survive this trauma.  She speaks graphically of some of her abuse and her internal processes, as well as her world-view, as they developed in response to the harm done to her, are difficult to grasp unless one has some experience of this kind of pain.
    Yet, because of an open writing style and ease of expression the reader has the ability to grasp some of this experience without having to face the author’s peril.
    My best friend (and wife) noted my dark mood the week I was reading this book, so deeply was I affected by its content.  By turns, I was angry, sickened, filled with dread, hopeful, hopeless, helpless and empowered as I progressed through its pages.  In my profession, I have sat with numerous victims of sexual abuse; I have heard their pain, witnessed their courage and admired their strength.  After this book, I feel a deeper sense of appreciation of these individuals.  To see how many of them have moved from “victim” to survivor to thriving in overcoming the evil done them gives me pause to be thankful and amazed; thankful for the opportunity to journey with them and amazed at these heroes. Fortunately, Dr. Fragoso did not remain a victim of her abuse. She overcame this trauma to earn a Ph.D. and to write a book that is a much needed resource.
    This book needs to be required reading for anyone in, or preparing for, the counseling or other helping profession.  It supports the research of the predatory behavior of Pedophiles; offers, both directly and by suggestion, how to protect children from such people, imparts insight into many of the behaviors of those who have been the prey of such individuals and gives first-hand (of a fashion) experience of sitting with those harmed.  Anyone who chooses to read this book needs to be aware of the pain they will experience as they “witness” the harming of a child.  
    This is NOT a book for children, it is a MUST read for anyone who has the responsibility to protect children. 

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  • Posted December 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    An amazing memoir of the author's youth and adolescence and her

    An amazing memoir of the author's youth and adolescence and her relationship with her friend, the pedophile. That's right. FRIEND!
    In this book Ms Fragoso does the unthinkable. She brings us inside her relationship with Paul, a friend to Margaux's mother and herself, who groomed her from age eight to become a sexual partner for himself at the time almoast 60!
    Probably the most chilling aspect is that Paul is not your drooling, raincoat wearing, pervert. He places himself in the path of this family, an abusive father, mentally ill mother and fragile Margaux herself. She wants love from an adult she can depend on.
    What she gets is a form of attention, which she experiences as love that Paul insinuates himself in her life to the point Margaux believes in their mutual love, that an uncaring world would never understand and so must be kept secret.
    Mom, Dad and just about every adult in this story seems not to see (or acknowledge) the terrible things happening to Margaux. Yes of course the sex games, but also Margaux's depression, confused self image and ultimate belief that she will marry Paul and live happily ever after!
    But like almost any relationship built upon lies and deception, it begins to unravel. And Margaux remains a dedicated friend to Paul until the climax where she becomes painfully aware of the awful truth of the relationship.
    Margaux writes this tale in brutal first person remembrance. No one is spared, no detail is too gruesome as to be avoided. Eventually she comes to terms with her past and starts building a life of her own, college, husband and family. But there is never the day of reckoning for the pedophile. He sickly, slickly gets away without societal judgement and sanction of his acts. There is no big payoff. No conclusion. And that only makes this scarier ans more plausible still.

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  • Posted April 30, 2012

    So entrapping

    So entrapping

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