Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Bloomsbury India. However, all opinions expressed are my own.
One of my 2022 reading resolutions was to read more books by women. Considering that March 8 is International Women’s Day, I seem to have been solely picking women’s writing this month.
One of these was ‘The Apology’ by Eve Ensler. Back when I first came across it, I remember it was the author’s name that struck me — like many others, I had of course heard about The Vagina Monologues. I stayed my eyes to not skip over the synopsis and I knew then and there that it would take me as much courage to read it, as it had taken Ensler to write it.
If I still haven’t convinced you enough, here is a synopsis from Goodreads:
Like millions of women, Eve Ensler has been waiting much of her lifetime for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, Eve has struggled her whole life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti-violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer; an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her. The Apology, written by Eve from her father’s point of view in the words she longed to hear, attempts to transform the abuse she suffered with unflinching truthfulness and compassion and an expansive vision for the future.
Remarkable and original, The Apology is an acutely transformational look at how, from the wounds of sexual abuse, we can begin to re-emerge and heal. It is revolutionary, asking everything of each of us: courage, honesty, and forgiveness.
On the Essay, Closure and Ensler’s Writing
I stand by what I have said before: There is something undefinably wholesome and at the same time, real, in the reading of essays.
There is a surety of an end and for a person like me — the existence or the acknowledgement of an end is very important. The closure is very important to me and for the longest time it had felt that essays, even though short and often led me on rambling trains of thought, came with a definite full stop.
As I write this, I am also forced to acknowledge this similarity for my deep-rooted need for the acknowledgement of an end. A closure. This work, after all, is as much a deliberate execution of the same need (by the writer) after all. What is it about this closure that buoys us?
That leads us forward and yet, the lack of which, does not let us move forward in life. Does a closure really work? And just in case one doesn’t get it, is it possible to move on eventually? After possibly a long time? Or do you waste your whole life pining for it?
Ensler’s writing is… beyond words. Was it because of her clear voice or her scope of imagination that let her write this apology as her father, to her, that made it so profound and striking in its transparency?
On Trust and the Breaking of this Fundamental Bond
Trust is one of the fundamental pillars of any relationship. A break of this trust almost always proves detrimental to the enduring strength of this formation. Sometimes, I think rarely though, repairs are possible. But one may argue based on their experiences (and maybe mine too), is it really possible to go back to how it was?
More often, however, the shattering of trust equals a lifelong and forever shattering of that relationship. What remains is a perverse disjointed bond that does no good to either party.
In Ensler’s case, this break or breach of trust comes from a person who is supposed to be outside of the bounds of such questions. A father or a parent for that matter is one who essentially brings this child into the world. They are both a part of each other, biologically and genetically. What happens when this bond is destroyed?
In such a case, the child’s entire belief system is upended. Their world tilts unnaturally so much so that it is no longer makes sense. Nothing makes sense. If you cannot trust your parent, who can you trust? If a parent breaks your trust, won’t that mean that the entire world too will break it? What is real and what is an illusion? Nothing is absolute anymore.
The Importance of this Apology
This apology, therefore, is a powerful act of writing.
In the first place, it is Ensler acknowledging what happened to her, and how it changed her. It is an acknowledgement of the structure of her being, or rather the history of her personhood.
Secondly, it is her giving a chance to her abuser to tell his story. Doesn’t that say a lot about the journey Ensler herself had to make, in order to reach space when she feels ready to acknowledge her abuser’s history?
Thirdly, does it also not show how immense Ensler’s own sense of forgiveness is? It is not easy to forgive one’s abuser. It is not easy to give them a chance to tell their story. It is easy to say that that is letting them give a mere excuse.
Lastly, through this powerful reckoning, Ensler herself is getting the chance to get the closure she has needed all her life.
I think that reading ‘The Apology’ is not an easy task. Prepare yourself, consider the trigger warning. It is so sad and at the same time, so potent. It is raw and I was full-on sobbing at some points because I could, unfortunately, relate to some emotions and experiences.
I annotated the heck out of it — the margins are scribbled with black ink, and I have run out of one flap of page stickers. I am wrecked but I am also in a better position regarding my own trauma.
Overall, it is a book I definitely recommend because ‘The Apology’ is so much more than just a daughter asking her father for one. It is so much more than a daughter who was abused by such a central figure in her life. It is so much more than being a victim.
It is dealing with the aftermath and the trauma. And it is also a lesson of being able to understand, To forgive: both oneself and another. It is about overcoming and moving forward. It is about finding closure.
If you liked this…
If you liked this book, or are looking for more along similar lines, you could also check out My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. For personal reasons, I do club them together. However while ‘The Apology’ is mostly a non-fictional piece, My Dark Vanessa is a work of fiction.
Nayanika Saikia graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and was also a Dean’s List student. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree and is also a Booktuber and Bookstagrammer. She can often be found on her Instagram account Pretty Little Bibliophile.