The Truth Book
by Joy Castro, appearing Oct 31, 11:30 am, Lewis & Clark College; Nov 1, 7 pm, PSU's Student Union

Every year growing up, Joy Castro began the school year with an explanatory note for her teachers. She was not to say the Pledge of Allegiance. If the class decorated for Christmas or Halloween, she was to be excused. Birthday celebrations and cupcakes were also forbidden, and of course, she was not to be present for any discussion of evolution. Slang was verboten, as was the phrase "good luck," since luck doesn't exist and has Satanic connotations. After class, she was to go to the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall and read from religious literature, or otherwise assume her appointed role within the religion as a silent, subservient Witness—the only acceptable position for a young female.

But the annual notes to her teacher didn't outline what really went on after school—the rape, starvation, torture, and psychological abuse that Castro suffered under her evil stepfather.

When Castro was 14, her mother married her second husband, who remains nameless throughout The Truth Book, and Joy's life became a torture story. Aside from the beatings and nightly visits to Joy's bed, her monstrous, fundamentalist stepfather excelled at dealing out psychological torment. Joy and her brother were forbidden from making eye contact with him. He created an exacting system wherein Joy's brother was allowed to eat precisely one-eighth of the stepfather's portion size. (From age 14 to 16, when she lived with her stepfather, Joy did not grow an inch due to malnutrition. After running away, she quickly grew two inches). The stepfather terrorized them so badly for communicating with their actual father that they spent entire visitation weekends mute, communicating only by coughing and blinking.

The second half of The Truth Book is one of the most terrifying narratives I've ever read. Unfortunately, the first 97 pages of the book are unfocused and meandering; if I hadn't been reviewing the book, I never would have continued. Beginning precisely at Chapter Eight, though, Castro's The Truth Book soars in its nightmarish truths—an unforgettable tale of hypocrisy and cruelty.