Book title: Synanon Kid
Author: C. A. Wittman
10 STARS for this eye-opening page-turner. Why isn’t it a movie yet?
This book tells a true but shocking story. It is written from a child’s perspective. Celena’s domestic setting was deplorable. Her parents never married and then broke up when she was very young. The father indulged himself with many girlfriends while her desperate and depressed mother shacked up with any man who would house and feed her for any length of time. Despite all this, Celena remains faithful to her mother. This situation was far from ideal for young Celena who was forced to endure harsh treatment from some of her mother’s male counterparts. Desperation and the quest for a sense of belonging somewhere safe seemed to be the motivating factors that drove Celena’s mother into taking her six-year-old daughter to live within a ranch-style commune among the people of the Synanon Cult situated in northern California. However, before they arrived, they knew little of the cult’s anti-family stance.
This book made for compulsive reading. It is an eye-opening page-turner based on truth. It exposes the cruel abnormal policies, practices and propaganda the Synanon children were forced to endure in a so-called modern America. This story needs to be told and deserves to be heard. Celena is a commendable survivor who did her best to fight her way out of a dreadful situation starting from the age of six. She was kept as a child prisoner where there was nobody helpful or trustworthy to turn to.
This book would make a great movie--I feel surprised it hasn’t been snapped up yet! It is recommendable for anyone interested in the following genres:
religion, cults, memoirs, coming-of-age stories, biographical, child education, psychology and
The protagonist is Celena, a six-year-old girl who fights a mental battle against her sentence of living among the awful, programmed people within the Synanon Cult commune.
I would not recommend this book to anyone who is overly sensitive and insecure to the point that they cannot face up to the real horrors of other people’s lives; or to those who are too frail to read about the struggles and turmoil of pubescent sexuality. Readers should also be warned there are a few brief sections that depict neglect and cruelty to animals. Although this is the case, Celena does not in any way advocate or approve of this cruelty. She was the innocent child bystander who was forced, against her will, to witness these barbaric acts. To penalise her for being brave enough to write about these horrific, yet truthful statements, would only serve to deliver another injury to the hurting child inside her--and she does not deserve further pain.
Celena’s style of writing is exceptionally well-edited and engaging. The dialogue draws the reader into the story in a natural, believable way. Her three-dimensional characters are credible and well-developed. Despite this book containing sexual content and some bodily functions, Celena manages to write with scrupulous dignity throughout her book. This story contains minimal bad language where appropriate as part of the storyline. It would be false not to use those words where included. They deliver a reality that illustrates specific situations that are paramount to the story.
The inner content of this book was not predictable in any way, although the eventual outcome was--she got out. This is not a spoiler, simply because the mere fact that this book was ever written goes to show that she eventually escaped. As a reader, I felt no part of this book was contrived. The conclusion was satisfying although I must admit to wondering how her life panned out afterwards. The fact that Celena progressed to the point of writing this book tells me enough--she obviously grew up into a smart, sophisticated woman who survived.
Anyone who is arrogant enough to condemn this written content as ‘made-up’ has obviously never been exposed to living in a harsh commune. It is a known fact that events with high emotional impact are seared into the human memory, at an early age, and this can easily happen from the age of four.
The thing I liked most about this book was that not only did Celena survive, her unyielding defiance of the cult’s attempted indoctrination over her conscious mind ultimately failed. Celena rose to become herself. She never stopped loving her mother, and she defied everyone in the cult by continuing to believe in herself and in her own abilities. Celena proved them all wrong--she’s not stupid. She’s smart, beautiful and bright. Kudos to Celena for having the courage to write all about her deeply personal, tragic experiences that lay bare naked truths that society ignored and avoided for far too many years.
On a closing note, I feel compelled to say that if Celena’s parents had loved each other and stayed together, then none of this would have happened to their beautiful, strong daughter, but they didn’t. Sadly, Celena is no different to millions of other kids who come from broken homes. Most pay the price for their parents’ poor life choices. Despite this, Celena remains loyal to her mother. If she had scorned her mother, I could understand it, but she continued to love her. I suddenly found myself asking, “But why? How can she still love her mother?”
I reckon the answer lies in Celena’s rebellion against the Synanon Cult. The whole while she lived there (about five years) the cult kept trying to sever the bond between mothers and their children. Celena’s silent, inner rebellion against the cult’s beliefs are what pulled her through. She knew something had wired her to instinctively love her mother despite all her mother’s dreadful failings. By loving her mother, Celena continues to do what she knows is right. Celena’s love continues to defy the damage that the Synanon Cult tried to inflict on her and her mother’s lives. And from this, I realise that Celena will always love her mother--no matter what.
On a scale of 1 to 10, one being poor and ten being excellent, I would rate this book TEN (10).
Well done, C. A. Wittman, I loved reading your book! I will never forget your bitter-sweet story of a young girl’s survival.
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