Carrighar’s Home to the Wilderness presents the amazing story of a young woman’s survival. From her earliest childhood, Carrighar sensed her mother’s hatred and jealousy, yet eventually she was able to accept her mother and to avoid condemning her. Carrighar paints a portrait of an unnatural mother, one so concerned with her own looks and place in society that she hated her daughter and was jealous of any affection between her husband and the child. Mrs. Carrighar told her daughter exactly how much money had been spent on her since her birth, and she was the only parent not to rush to the local school to check on her child’s welfare after a cyclone. Carrighar’s mother almost strangled her daughter and nearly urged her to commit suicide. Because of her childhood, young adult readers tend to sympathize with Carrighar and to understand how, as an adult, she found more comfort and solace with animals than with humans.
Carrighar explains how she was fortunate in being able to find other parental models in her mother’s friends and in her teachers. The reader may find it amazing that these friends perceived Carrighar’s danger, warning her of impending doom, and yet did nothing else. Despite their concern for Carrighar’s welfare, their friend-ship with her mother was more important to them. Even when Carrighar found her own friends, however, they were soon taken from her. The early death of John Craig robbed her of a true confidant, and her mother’s insistence that she get rid of her pet dog robbed her of a source of unconditional love. Yet, in spite of her disappointments...
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Home to the Wilderness is Carrighar’s effort to write her life story “from the deepest level and withholding nothing.” Reading about her painful experiences will help those from similarly abusive backgrounds and will make others sympathetic to her plight. The author seeks to educate young adults, who need to know about dysfunctional families and abnormal behavior. This book would be a good high-school introduction to such psychological problems.
Carrighar’s strong moral beliefs and her admirable ability to persevere despite hardships constitute other inspiring aspects of her story. The writing process is also discussed. Carrighar’s experiences writing in college, for film scripts, in advertising, and for magazines offer advice for future writers. She explains how she prepared for and pursued her dream of becoming a naturalist and author. The themes of Carrighar’s story—including perseverance, the search for self-esteem, being true to one’s beliefs, and sympathy for others—are timeless, worthwhile lessons for young adults.