This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games–games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother’s games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an “it.”
Dave’s bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive–dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.
David J. Pelzer’s mother, Catherine Roerva, was, he writes in this ghastly, fascinating memoir, a devoted den mother to the Cub Scouts in her care, and somewhat nurturant to her children–but not to David, whom she referred to as “an It.” This book is a brief, horrifying account of the bizarre tortures she inflicted on him, told from the point of view of the author as a young boy being starved, stabbed, smashed face-first into mirrors, forced to eat the contents of his sibling’s diapers and a spoonful of ammonia, and burned over a gas stove by a maniacal, alcoholic mom. Sometimes she claimed he had violated some rule–no walking on the grass at school!–but mostly it was pure sadism. Inexplicably, his father didn’t protect him; only an alert schoolteacher saved David. One wants to learn more about his ordeal and its aftermath, and now he’s written a sequel, The Lost Boy, detailing his life in the foster-care system.
Though it’s a grim story, A Child Called “It” is very much in the tradition of Chicken Soup for the Couple’s Soul and the many books in that upbeat series, whose author Pelzer thanks for helping get his book going. It’s all about weathering adversity to find love, and Pelzer is an expert witness.