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Friday, February 3, 2012

Book Review - The Box of Daughter by Katherine Mayfield

Book Review
The Box of Daughter by
The Box of Daughter - a memoir
by Katherine Mayfield
About the Author
Katherine MayfieldKatherine Mayfield won the Honorable Mention award for her story The Last Visit in Warren Adler’s 2011 Short Story Contest, and has written articles for national magazines as well as local newspapers in Massachusetts. As an actress, she performed Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway, in independent films, and on the daytime soap Guiding Light.

She is the author of Smart Actors, Foolish Choices and Acting A to Z, both published by Random House Bertelsmann.

Author on Facebook          Authors Blog          Author on Twitter

Book Description
The Box of Daughter is an inspiring true story of the author's journey of healing after five decades of emotional abuse. Her parents were fine, upstanding citizens in a large suburban community, devout church members who volunteered and gave generously of their time, treasure, and talent, and took their frustrations out on their children by bullying them behind closed doors, just as their parents had done to them.

Criticized and belittled from an early age, the author became the perfect "Good Little Girl" who always obeyed and tried to give her parents everything they wanted, as she forced her real self into unconscious hiding. Not knowing her family was dysfunctional, she thought she was defective and unlovable. When she was four, she witnessed violence in her family, and became afraid that if she ever disobeyed her parents, she would be killed.

As the author grew into adulthood, her parents used her to meet their own emotional needs, a situation that psychologists call "emotional incest." She entered therapy and began to understand that her low self-esteem was the result of the way her parents treated her. In her forties, she acted as caregiver for her parents as they aged, still enduring their abuse and trying her best to make them happy. In the last eight months of her father's life, she lost weight at an alarming rate in spite of eating a normal, healthy diet. No medical cause was ever found, and she was emaciated by the time her father passed away at 93.

Free of the abuse at last, she set foot on an exhilarating journey of physical and emotional healing: unearthing her authentic self, expressing her grief and rage, and finally creating a life that is truly her own. The Box of Daughter demonstrates that it is possible to heal the pain of abuse and move on into a more rewarding life.

Book Review
This book is a truly open and honest account of the authors life,  growing up whilst being captured in the middle of emotional abuse.  I started to read the book not knowing what to expect, by the third page I had a lump in my throat and the dread in my stomach of how a little girl tries so desperately to please her mum and how a mothers simplest actions can have so much affect on a child.  As a parent myself, I immediately started to think of certain things I have done in the past,  meaning no harm, but questioning what affect this may have had on my child.

The author lived in a dominant and controlling environment when all she needed and craved for was the physical and emotional love of her parents, tenderness, a kiss, a smile, a cuddle, praise.  Living the life of two families was how things were expected, one show for the public, family and friends against the real family situation, inside their home, of emotional neglect, sadness, loneliness and for a little girl the lack of tolerance.  This lack made her life virtually unbearable, being almost too scared to breathe, as she learnt from a very young age that the only way to please was to be the good little girl, how the box of daughter should be.  Stopping herself from enjoying any part of life, so she didn't get hurt when it was taken away from her was another part of growing up.

What you do realise as you read more into the book is that her parents lived a very lonely life together, handed down from generations of how parents behaved.  You could almost feel their depression as they lived their daily lives.  You also feel the anger and jealousy as her mother continually took the limelight at any given opportunity over her daughters achievements.

For me the breaking point is when the family had the chance to move to California for 3 years.   The author finally finds some freedom and the feeling of acceptance from the school, youth club and theatre club.  Things were starting to improve when they were suddenly taken away as the family had to move back to their original area due to her fathers job.  This to me leads to more unbalanced feelings and increased frustrations of the whole family.

Then living through the caring of her elderly parents as she holds onto all the past pain and resentment of all the things she never experienced as a child.  When the day came when she was finally free to live her life as she wanted to, the sheer shock and confusion in her mind on how to life without the shadowing criticism over her, starts to hit her. As the lines read ' I was left with threads of many colours that I didn't have any idea how to sift and sort them into any kind of order, or whether I even needed any of them at all to weave a new tapestry for my life.'  Recommended reading.

The Box of Daughter
When I was a little girl,
I wanted more than anything
To be a person.
But my parents wanted me
To be a daughter.
“We put you in the box of daughter,” they told me,
Though not in so many words,
And having no choice,
Because I was a daughter,
I climbed into the box.
I didn’t like it there, but it felt safe.

The box of daughter was small and dark,
There wasn’t much air,
Or personhood,
And not very much life could get
Into or out of the box.
There wasn’t enough room
For all the parts of me,
So I had to leave some of myself
Outside the box.
Then I forgot where it was.
(Or someone threw it away when I wasn’t looking.)

My brother was the lucky one—
He was in the box of son.
He got to do what he wanted
(Though sometimes he got punished for it,
But I guess that was the price of
Being in the box of son and doing what you wanted).
I don’t know if he’s still in the box now;
He lives in L.A.

It’s been many years now
That I’ve been in the box of daughter—
I’ve worked a lot on the box,
Making holes to see out,
And so that more light and life can come in,
I’ve pushed and pushed at the walls for years and years,
Trying to make the box fit me better,
But it’s a very strong box.

I’ve tried just stepping out of the box sometimes,
And sometimes it works;
But I’m afraid it will cause my parents pain
And they already seem to have
Too much to cope with.
How can I hurt people who
Are already hurting too much?
That would make me feel cruel.
And so I live on in the small, dark box of daughter.

I hope one day long before the end of my life
I’ll be set free from the box—
I’m so excited to find out one day
What life is like
Outside the box of daughter.
Copyright 1999-2012 Katherine Mayfield

Our Rating


  1. I wrote a post in the wrong box!! LOL.

    Anyways- this is what I said-

    I love the poem. It really hit hard as I have a daughter and son (3 and 1). I am also a daughter with a brother and can relate. I think I need to buy this book for a nice reminder.

  2. As a counselor, I love to read books like this so I can gain a greater understanding of not only how the victimized person feels, but what it took for them to no longer be a victim. Great review--I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

  3. wow so hard to put words to this review has taught me.

  4. You feel so sorry for that little girl, that the abuse continued into adulthood.

  5. I always feel it is ashame when people abuse children but I love reading how they overcome and become whole.


Always lovely to hear your comments xx

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