Monday, July 13, 2009

The Unbreakable Child by Kim Michele Richardson

Grim yet ultimately inspiring, this harrowing biography catalogues years of institutional abuse that took place in the Saint Thomas-Saint Vincent Orphan Asylum, a Catholic orphanage in Anchorage, Kentucky. After many years of neglect by their drug-addicted mother, Kim and her three older sisters were abandoned to the uncharitable care of the Sisters of Charity. Detailing daily regimens of physical and mental abuse at the hands of the nuns, this chilling memoir explains how the Roman Catholic Church kept the orphanage hidden from prying eyes, miles from any main thoroughfare, allowing mistreatment to continue for decades. Describing her life through adulthood and the decision to finally expose the injustices after more than 30 years, this courageous tale chronicles the lawsuit initiated by 45 survivors, the two years of litigation, and the first successful prosecution of a lawsuit against Roman Catholic nuns in the US for decades of abuse in an orphanage.

How do I begin to tell how this book took me right back to my childhood.I was raised Roman Catholic.I attended The Regina Mundi Convent(run by Irish nuns) from my first year of school and remained there for 5 years until the new government (who had overthrown the previous president) decided that everyone was equal and there would be no more private schools so the convent had to close down as only the rich kids went there.How to explain a convent for only the rich?My mother had attended this convent as a young girl on a bursary(one spot allocated per year to a very poor,very clever child.)There she made friends with the rich kids and met my dad which then meant I got to go as a paying student.

Before you all start thinking I was abused by these nuns,I was not at all abused.I just want to highlight some minor events as a way to impress on you how a young child's mind can be affected by small little things, never mind the absolutely horrific experiences that Kim Michele Richardson went through as a child.

The whole school stood every Monday morning for assembly outside on the school field.It was against school rules to chew gum.One bright morning as Sister Scholastika started with morning prayers she stood on a piece of gum.Out of the entire school I was the only one to go "yeeew".I was ordered to clean and scrape this piece of gum from her shoes and the floor.To this day I will not chew gum.My children are not allowed to chew gum.I hate watching people chew gum.I will not sit in a restaurant without checking under the table to see if anyone has stuck their piece of gum there.I hate,hate,hate chewing gum and luckily,my teeth are still in perfect condition, thank you.

That is just about the only bad experience I had with my nuns.I was lucky.The class distinctions between the rich,very rich and obscenely rich can be found at any private school so that would just be a life experience.

Going over to the Roman Catholic Church is a whole other story.While being a Roman Catholic to me is something that I am more than something that I do,even as a young child I thought a few things a bit strange.Like the one time,this statue of the Virgin Mary came to the island(only 1 of 3 in the world apparently) and was transported at the back of a truck from village to village.The locals would stand on the side of the road and throw flowers and cry and then visit the church every day for the week that it would remain in that specific village church.The very holy followed the statue from village to village and attended every church service on the entire island of which there were about 30 parishes.When it passed by our village my grandfather instructed me to go throw flowers.At the age of 9 I thought this very strange and dawdled and managed to avoid throwing any flowers much to my grandfather's chagin.My point is my mother as a young child would not have hesitated to throw flowers,I pretended to want to and avoided doing so,my daughter would have laughed in my face if I asked her to go do that.I think people are far more inclined now to think for themselves than follow the masses.For all our issues and complaints about the world being a worse place than in the old days,people are now less worried to think out of the box,to judge what is best for us as individuals,to accept differences in each other,while still remaining focused on being good people with basic values.I might read a lot of true crime books but I firmly believe that people are more good than bad.We are all trying to do the best job we can and trying to instill values in our children which will help them be productive members of society.

I am not a regular church goer and while I acknowledge that I always have such a nice feeling when I attend a church service I am still so reluctant to go because my memories of church were that I was absolutely bored and the services were so long,and in latin and not much interaction for me as a child and being forced to go didn't help matters much.Because of this I haven't really gond to church a lot with my children and this point hit home for me about a month back when I said to my daughter that "maybe we should go to church this sunday" and she replied "can we just go?don't we need a subscription?".That made me sad as I need to get over my own negative feelings and help my daughter form her own opinion by at least exposing her to the positives of having a balance in life,as in going to church occasionally as she is actually a very moral child with a good head on her shoulders.

I could go on and on but I will say this.The book was excellent.Again I picked up that the writer,although being of such strong character,tended to downplay her strengths,more telling her story as if every person would have dealt with the trauma the way she did.Well,Kim Michele Richardson,even if you won't acknowledge this fact (probably from the lesson of "be humble")you are a very strong lady and you have inspired me to be grateful for all that I have,for the amazing childhood that I did have,for reminding me that I was one of the lucky ones,that while I was having the carefree childhood that all children should have,there were others like you suffering and yet you not only survived but rose above it and stood up for yourself.Thank you for sharing your story!

I would recommend reading this book.It made me realise how lucky I was and still am.My heart breaks for the lost childhoods which some children will never know,never mind get back.A beautifully told inspirational story of a life lived,a lesson that it is never too late to begin having a good life,that while you are a child and adults can decide your fate,biding your time until you make your own decisions and keeping your wits about you so that those eventual adult decisions are good ones.It is never too late to salvage the pieces of a broken life and start living well as every single human being on this earth is entitled to.

For More Book Details:
The Unbreakable Child
Country: United States of America
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Kunati Inc.
ISBN: 9781601641632
Publication date: April 2009
Pages: 235
Illustrations: Illustrated


  1. Holy Cow! What a great review! Kunati is an awesome publisher and the author is just rock-on nice.

  2. I know we do not know each other, and I do hope you don't mind my commenting.

    I am not sure if its people wanting to think for themselves more than it is the fear of the unknown, when it comes to practicing a certain religion. I see the fear in my two oldest step-children. I can feel it when they attend services with the family during holidays.

    It's a shame, too.

  3. J.Kaye,thanks for stopping by and a bigger thank you for this great book recommendation.What a book!!

    Sacrifice This,I do know you from your blog and do know of the some of the issues you have gone through.I agree that in part it is a fear of the unknown but that people are now braver and not so scared of the unknown.

    I just need to add this.My uncle just came to visit and was looking at my shelf of books and informed me that if he was ever offered the option of reading all these books or going to jail for 5 years he would rather choose 5 years in jail.

  4. Wow, what a review! And what a horror! Those poor children! Thank you for opening up and sharing a piece of you that I'm sure is very private. I will have to put it on my TBR list....

    Did you Uncle decide he would go to jail because he didn't like the subject matter on your book shelf? ....

  5. Hey Suzanne
    No,it's not the type of books.He would rather go to jail than have to read any type of books,can you believe?and his problem was with the quantity of books.If they said read all these books he would choose jail for 5 years(lol)
    and about the privacy issue,I know I have to keep a balance but this book hit close and I know most of the people who read my blog(I think) so I thought it wud be ok to share.

  6. This was an interesting post. I'm glad your experience at school wasn't bad. As a teacher my heart breaks for those poor children in the book. Your uncle sounds like he has a good sense of humor.


Custom Search

My True Crime Library

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog