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Worst Book Parents

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When Harry's taking Occlumency lessons from Snape in Book 5 there's a moment when he flashes through a handful of memories from his early childhood that include Marge's dog terrorizing him while Dudley laughs. We don't know when he was locked in the cupboard but I think it was early on, if not immediately, given Dudley's reaction to Harry getting his second bedroom and the way Vernon presents it to Harry. Generally, I think it's safe to assume that he received no emotional support at all from the moment he was discovered on their doorstep. We know he was fed and clothed but those bare minimum requirements of parenting were treated like a burden as he was given smaller portions than Dudley and had to wear hand me downs that didn't fit. The only reason he got a treat on Dudley's birthday in Book 1 is because Vernon didn't take him away from the stand before the clerk asked him what he wanted and even then he only got the cheapest option while Dudley and Piers got the better choices. His birthday's weren't celebrated at all when he was at their house and they gave him shitty gifts at Christmas before stopping altogether.

I'll give Petunia a little credit and say that it's possible that she would have been willing to let Harry have some basic needs, like the bedroom, and was shouted down/didn't try because it was obvious that Vernon made most of the decisions in the house. His reaction when she forcefully says that Harry will stay after the Dementor attack in Book 5 shows that she rarely went against him and the only other time she did may have been when Harry first showed up. Petunia understood just enough about the Wizarding World to understand that Voldemort was a major threat and having Harry in their house not only protected him but protected them as well. If Vernon's reaction to baby Harry was to send him to an orphanage (and I would bet money that it was) then Petunia would have to stand against him like she did in Book 5. She probably said something similar to what she said in Book 5 when she said that kicking Harry out would have gotten the neighbors talking about them so it was better to let him stay, as making the magical protection argument wouldn't have worked on Vernon. But that's all the credit I give her as she happily took part in abusing Harry the rest of the time.

26 minutes ago, Browncoat said:

Agreed, too, that if Lily and Petunia's parents had reacted differently to Lily's acceptance at Hogwart's, Petunia likely would have felt differently about Harry, and not kept him in a cupboard under the stairs. 

The books never said or implied that the Evans had a negative reaction to Lily being a witch. They're instead described as being proud of her magical abilities.

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5 minutes ago, scarynikki12 said:

The books never said or implied that the Evans had a negative reaction to Lily being a witch. They're instead described as being proud of her magical abilities.

Right.  I meant that if the Evans had had a more negative reaction, or if they hadn't made so much of Lily being a witch, thus marginalizing Petunia, Petunia might not have had such a bad attitude about the whole wizarding world thing, and might have kept in touch with Lily and *might* have had a better attitude towards Harry. 

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Maybe. I think that Petunia's jealousy would have always manifested into hatred for Lily and everything related to magic. If their parents had reacted negatively I think she'd have felt even more justified in her hate and Harry still would have been abused for being a wizard.

I didn't get the sense that Petunia was marginalized though we barely know anything about the Evans parents so it's possible. My best guess is that Petunia felt marginalized even if the Evans' were enthused at her accomplishments as well as Lily's because they could only talk about the Wizarding World with each other. They could talk about Petunia to their neighbors, friends, colleagues, etc., but they had to be careful when it came to Lily so it may have seemed like they only cared about her.

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Petunia probably wasn't truly marginalized, but it seems like she felt marginalized as a child with so much attention being given to Lily when she got her letter, and those feelings don't go away easily.  How many of us fall back into the same sibling and parent relationships/roles when we go "home"?  I suspect Lily and Petunia had roles in the family, and at least part of Petunia's was to be the normal one.  

I wonder where the Evans parents were at the beginning of the story?  I don't remember if anything was mentioned about their whereabouts (or if they were still alive).  Too bad Harry couldn't have been left with them instead.

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2 hours ago, Browncoat said:

Too bad Harry couldn't have been left with them instead.

Never mentioned in the story but both sets of grandparents died before their children. The Potters both died of Dragon Pox before Harry was born per Rowling. She hasn't provided info on how the Evans died, though the lack of information at least tells us that they weren't killed by Death Eaters (as that would be relevant to the story). Until she says or writes it into a story I've just assumed that they died in a car accident to keep things simple.

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I feel sorry for young Petunia not getting into Hogwarts but she and Vernon treated Harry like a freak of nature not as a son. Seeing his parents abuse Harry allowed Dudley to become a bully. Both boys would have been better off if they had been treated as equals.

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6 minutes ago, kathyk2 said:

I feel sorry for young Petunia not getting into Hogwarts but she and Vernon treated Harry like a freak of nature not as a son. Seeing his parents abuse Harry allowed Dudley to become a bully. Both boys would have been better off if they had been treated as equals.

I agree. She didn't get in and that really sucked. She may not chose to end up with her sister's baby but she did and chose how she treated him. She chose to take all that crap out on a baby. She could have let it go and really do her best. She chose not too. She chose to raise Dudley the way she did. Honestly neither her nor her husband should have been parents. They were shitty to Harry a kid they didn't want and made very clear and raised their own son to be a shitty person, to be a bully. 

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6 hours ago, andromeda331 said:

I agree. She didn't get in and that really sucked. She may not chose to end up with her sister's baby but she did and chose how she treated him. She chose to take all that crap out on a baby. She could have let it go and really do her best. She chose not too. She chose to raise Dudley the way she did. Honestly neither her nor her husband should have been parents. They were shitty to Harry a kid they didn't want and made very clear and raised their own son to be a shitty person, to be a bully. 

I have not one drop of sympathy for Petunia. Yeah, it sucks to feel like you're languishing in a more accomplished sibling's shadow... but dammit all, people have to grow up and make their own way. At some point, you just have to make the choice to stop living in someone's shadow, and it's not as if it can't be done. Petunia could have taken up a sport, an instrument, a craft, become an honors student, dropped out of society and backpack everywhere, something, anything, but what did she do instead? Petunia chose her way by chucking her moral compass out the window, marrying the biggest asshole she could find, raising an asshole of her very own, and dishonoring her poor sister's memory by abusing her (Lily's) son.

Using your childhood issues to excuse treating innocent people like garbage... that's something Jodi Picoult's characters would do!

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I actually think Dumbledore bears just as much blame as the Dursleys for Harry’s poor treatment. He’s the one who decided to dump Harry with Lily’s estranged sister, and then he seemed to forget about him until Hogwarts.

There was some excuse about that Figg lady keeping an eye on things but she didn’t and couldn’t do much to help. Frankly, Dumbledore should have kept a much closer eye on Harry and he should have threatened to turn the Dursleys into frogs or whatever unless they treated him well. No, Dumbledore couldn’t make them love Harry, but he could have at least ensured that he had a proper room and meals and wasn’t treated like an unpaid servant.

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Another person who never should have been a parent: Margaret White in Carrie.  Stephen King is another author who created plenty of shitty parents, but this bitch takes the whole damn bakery.  If you thought she was bad in the movie, the novel is way more explicit in the ways she physically and emotionally tortured the poor girl.

What makes me furious is how most of the town knew Margaret was a religious nutjob who was probably abusing her daughter, and yet none of them did anything to help Carrie.  They just looked the other way while the other kids tortured her.  They're just as responsible for Carrie snapping on Prom Night as Margaret and the bullies.  Had someone SAID something or called fucking Social Services, Carrie could have gotten to a stable home and even if she still was unpopular or didn't have any friends, having a loving homelife could have gone a long way in her getting help and keeping her powers in check.

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8 hours ago, bubble sparkly said:

I actually think Dumbledore bears just as much blame as the Dursleys for Harry’s poor treatment. He’s the one who decided to dump Harry with Lily’s estranged sister, and then he seemed to forget about him until Hogwarts.

There was some excuse about that Figg lady keeping an eye on things but she didn’t and couldn’t do much to help. Frankly, Dumbledore should have kept a much closer eye on Harry and he should have threatened to turn the Dursleys into frogs or whatever unless they treated him well. No, Dumbledore couldn’t make them love Harry, but he could have at least ensured that he had a proper room and meals and wasn’t treated like an unpaid servant.

I agree. I could never understand why Harry wasn't raised by the Weasleys or maybe another wizarding family. If they were worried about Voldemort (who was supposedly dead) finding Harry, wouldn't blood relatives be the first place he looked?

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IIRC, Dumbledore didn’t want Harry to be exposed to all the fame he got just by not dying.  Dumbledore wanted a more, I don’t want to say normal, but my words are failing me, so normal it is, normal childhood instead of one where he’s gawked at and fussed over constantly.

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He did want Harry to grow up as normal as possible and without the burden of why he became famous but he was sent to live with the Dursleys because they were the only living blood relatives and that blood connection was necessary for the protection spell that bound Lily’s sacrifice until Harry came of age. And it worked damn well as we saw at the beginning of Book 7 that neither Voldemort nor his Death Eaters could find the house until Harry left for good. If that protection spell wasn’t necessary then I imagine Harry would have been adopted by a magical family who would love him and give him a happy and normal childhood. 

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Happy, maybe, but probably not normal.  If he were raised in the wizarding community, he'd be constantly reminded that he's the Boy Who Lived.  The Chosen One.  OTOH, if he'd been raised by the Weasleys, then maybe he would have married Luna instead of Ginny.  Or not married at all and become a teacher/headmaster at Hogwart's. 

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7 hours ago, scarynikki12 said:

He did want Harry to grow up as normal as possible and without the burden of why he became famous but he was sent to live with the Dursleys because they were the only living blood relatives and that blood connection was necessary for the protection spell that bound Lily’s sacrifice until Harry came of age. And it worked damn well as we saw at the beginning of Book 7 that neither Voldemort nor his Death Eaters could find the house until Harry left for good. If that protection spell wasn’t necessary then I imagine Harry would have been adopted by a magical family who would love him and give him a happy and normal childhood. 

You are giving Dumbledore too much credit. It does no good to protect Harry from dangers outside the home when he is being abused inside. Dumbledore is lucky Harry wanted to fight Voldemort rather than emulate him.

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58 minutes ago, kathyk2 said:

You are giving Dumbledore too much credit. It does no good to protect Harry from dangers outside the home when he is being abused inside.

I'm referencing his own words in the books. His priority was keeping Harry alive. He knew Voldemort wasn't dead and that there would be Death Eaters who would want to hunt down and murder Harry for defeating him. Look at what happened to Neville's parents after that night. They were tortured into insanity because three Death Eaters were out for revenge against anyone who had stood against their leader. If they'd had access to Harry he'd be dead for sure.

I do agree that Dumbledore should have paid more attention to how Harry was treated and him choosing not to do so was a mistake on his part. He took the chance that the Dursleys would accept Harry as their adopted son and didn't follow up until it was time to send the Hogwarts letters. If given a do over he may have made a different approach (I would send in a witch or wizard to check in on Harry under the guise of being a housekeeper, gardener, garbage man, etc.) or may have kept things the same since Harry did turn out to be a decent person in spite of his time with the Dursleys.

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5 hours ago, scarynikki12 said:

I'm referencing his own words in the books. His priority was keeping Harry alive. He knew Voldemort wasn't dead and that there would be Death Eaters who would want to hunt down and murder Harry for defeating him. Look at what happened to Neville's parents after that night. They were tortured into insanity because three Death Eaters were out for revenge against anyone who had stood against their leader. If they'd had access to Harry he'd be dead for sure.

I do agree that Dumbledore should have paid more attention to how Harry was treated and him choosing not to do so was a mistake on his part. He took the chance that the Dursleys would accept Harry as their adopted son and didn't follow up until it was time to send the Hogwarts letters. If given a do over he may have made a different approach (I would send in a witch or wizard to check in on Harry under the guise of being a housekeeper, gardener, garbage man, etc.) or may have kept things the same since Harry did turn out to be a decent person in spite of his time with the Dursleys.

Agree with all of this. But I really think that after the Dursleys locked Harry up to keep him from going back to Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore should have realized that they weren't trustworthy to keep looking after Harry. Or maybe he sent a Howler to Petunia to keep them back in check after that -- if he didn't he should have.

And blood magic or not, Petunia doesn't get any brownie points for grudgingly agreeing to take in Harry.

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On 6/9/2019 at 2:28 PM, catlover79 said:

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice are two examples of what NOT to do when parenting. Their failure to keep Lydia in line very nearly destroyed their family, and in the end, the three of them never really learned anything or mended their ways.

Speaking of the Bennets, what about Nick's mom in Crazy Rich Asians?  She was HORRIBLE to Rachel!

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3 hours ago, PRgal said:

Speaking of the Bennets, what about Nick's mom in Crazy Rich Asians?  She was HORRIBLE to Rachel!

Absolutely- and the fact that she waited to reveal the Paternity Bombshell until The Wedding Reception showed that she was SO intent on DESTROYING Rachel that she didn't care that that  she was doing it in the MOST public place imaginable where all of HER extended family and friends would see JUST how mean and vindictive SHE was (which went entirely against the alleged 'saving face' deal) !  Oh, and until Nick proposed, Rachel had evidently thought of him as an interesting interlude but had had no intention of marrying him so it wound up that Eleanor just forced Nick's hand rather than just let things be. 

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I just read The Sky Is Falling by Sydney Sheldon. It's basically ridiculous in every aspect, but as for the bad parent part:

The main character adopts a 12 year old orphan from Serbia before the book starts.  His parents were killed in an explosion and he's lost an arm.  When the book begins they have been back in the US for 3 months.  So far, so good.

The kid keeps getting in fights in school, getting bad grades, disrespectful to the teacher, etc.  All understandable.   So, new mom says she will take care of this. How?  By putting him into counselling of some kind (which should have already been happening)?  No, don't be silly.  By talking to him and finding out what's wrong and why he's getting in fights?  No, of course not.  She tells him to stop getting in fights.  Yeah, OK.

Then, she's a reporter, so she starts doing all this travelling to chase this story. OK, but you have a trauma-survivor child at home who is just getting used to his surroundings.  You can't leave him every 5 minutes.  If you had done anything about finding out what's bothering him, you would have found out that one of the things is that he's afraid you'll send him back to Serbia because you don't love him.  

Aargh.  I just got really annoyed about the whole thing.  It reminded me of an episode of Family Law.  Dani adopted an older child who had been abused in the foster care system.  She told her boss she was leaving the law firm to be a full-time mom and her boss pointed out that she had two kids and DAni said they weren't abused.  Raphael needs more time.  I wish she could have been in this book to knock Dana upside the head.

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@Katy M, Sidney Sheldon is one of the few authors I met, while I was interacting with a ton of authors for an annual book fair, who rubbed me the wrong way. At that time, we made arrangements for individual volunteers to pick up each author at the airport and take the author to the designated hotel, which was a very nice hotel that was comping the rooms. But that wasn’t good enough for him; insisted on a limo and swanky hotel. To be fair, I don’t know if he insisted on those things or his agent did, but it left a bad impression. That, and I thought his books were often trash. The man obviously had talent, but definitely not my cup of tea. 

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7 minutes ago, BookWoman56 said:

@Katy M, Sidney Sheldon is one of the few authors I met, while I was interacting with a ton of authors for an annual book fair, who rubbed me the wrong way. At that time, we made arrangements for individual volunteers to pick up each author at the airport and take the author to the designated hotel, which was a very nice hotel that was comping the rooms. But that wasn’t good enough for him; insisted on a limo and swanky hotel. To be fair, I don’t know if he insisted on those things or his agent did, but it left a bad impression. That, and I thought his books were often trash. The man obviously had talent, but definitely not my cup of tea. 

I liked a lot of his books, but his last two (which includes the Sky is Falling) were just awful.  Not sure if he had health issues in his last years which affected things or not.

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Health issues are a distinct possibility. Also, with some authors who are very established, they sometimes insist on minimal editing, which can be fine when authors are in their prime and able to edit their own work effectively, but not so fine when authors can’t perceive massive problems in their scripts. I think I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I gave up on “The Cat Who...” series when for a couple of books in a row, lack of substantive editing made the books almost incomprehensible. 

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I don't know if they've been mentioned, but poor Eleanor from Eleanor and Park definitely got the short, dirty end of the stick when it comes to parents. Her biological father is an emotionally distant dipshit who's no help at all, and her stepfather Richie is the abusive monster to end all abusive monsters, a disgusting man who physically and emotionally terrorizes anyone in his line of sight.

As vile as Richie was, I found myself hating Eleanor's mom Sabrina almost as much. I realize that's not fair or right, since Sabrina is as much a victim as her kids are... but screw it, I saw red every time that bitch defended Richie to Eleanor (she even gives Eleanor this hateful lecture about how she won't let Eleanor tear the family apart). If it were just Sabrina and Richie, that would be one thing, but, dammit all, Sabrina has five kids to worry about, she is a daily witness to Richie's behavior, and she. Does. Nothing. Her 16-year-old daughter is the one who finally gets her to get up and fucking do something.

Edited by Wiendish Fitch
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22 hours ago, Wiendish Fitch said:

I realize that's not fair or right, since Sabrina is as much a victim as her kids are... but screw it, I saw red every time that bitch defended Richie to Eleanor (she even gives Eleanor this hateful lecture about how she won't let Eleanor tear the family apart). If it were just Sabrina and Richie, that would be one thing, but, dammit all, Sabrina has five kids to worry about, she is a daily witness to Richie's behavior, and she. Does. Nothing. Her 16-year-old daughter is the one who finally gets her to get up and fucking do something.

I don't think that's unfair at all.  Like you said, when you're a parent, your kids are supposed to come first.  And if your spouse is abusing your child(ren) and you do nothing about it or worse blame them for their own abuse, then you're a shitty parent, period.

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On ‎08‎/‎04‎/‎2019 at 3:47 PM, MadyGirl1987 said:

think a lot of their treatment of Harry is down to fear of anything out of the ordinary and which they can't explain, and in Petunia's case, jealousy. Not that it excuses it, of course, but I really liked how we saw in the last book she was jealous of Lily and wanted to join the magical world and go to Hogwarts. It rang true, and added another dimension to the character.

I appreciated that it made Petunia feel more like a well-rounded character and less like a cardboard villain.  Still a terrible person, but a more interesting one.

Honestly, everyone seemed to fawn over Lily, so while Petunia shouldn't have let her jealousy eat at her and contribute to her being an awful person, I could understand it a bit.

Edited by proserpina65
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On ‎09‎/‎25‎/‎2019 at 6:16 PM, BookWoman56 said:

Health issues are a distinct possibility. Also, with some authors who are very established, they sometimes insist on minimal editing, which can be fine when authors are in their prime and able to edit their own work effectively, but not so fine when authors can’t perceive massive problems in their scripts. I think I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I gave up on “The Cat Who...” series when for a couple of books in a row, lack of substantive editing made the books almost incomprehensible. 

G.R.R Martin is a prime example of an author desperately in need of an editor who will actually do their job, but with enough clout to be able to get away with not having to really listen to their editor.

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Patricia's parents in The Summer of My German Soldier were garbage people.  Her dad abused her physically while the mom abused her verbally and emotionally.  So glad she ditched them both in the sequel.

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3 hours ago, Spartan Girl said:

Patricia's parents in The Summer of My German Soldier were garbage people.  Her dad abused her physically while the mom abused her verbally and emotionally.  So glad she ditched them both in the sequel.

That book made me physically ill when I read it as a kid and I hated how they tried to humanize the dad with that whisper scene after he beats her "why doesn't anyone ever love me".  I'm very happy to hear that she ditched them in the sequel!

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On 7/25/2015 at 11:25 AM, raezen said:

This might be stating the obvious but the parents in Angela's Ashes should definitely get a mention.

The ones in The Glass Castle, too

 

On 12/13/2015 at 5:19 PM, Janet Snakehole said:

Stoneybrook was FILLED with bad parents. Kristy's dad, Stacey's dad, both of Dawns's parents, and poor freaking Mallory had to take care of her younger siblings all the time.

The Pikes were especially bad considering that Mallory was 11, but the triplets 10 and Vanessa 9 - so why TF did everything get dumped on Mallory, like she was years and years older? Either they'd have gotten sitters for everyone or else the older of the younger siblings would have had to take more responsibility. Yet the way it was written, Mallory was the only Pike child to have to do any chores.

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4 minutes ago, SnarkySheep said:

The ones in The Glass Castle, too

 

The Pikes were especially bad considering that Mallory was 11, but the triplets 10 and Vanessa 9 - so why TF did everything get dumped on Mallory, like she was years and years older? Either they'd have gotten sitters for everyone or else the older of the younger siblings would have had to take more responsibility. Yet the way it was written, Mallory was the only Pike child to have to do any chores.

Not to mention the only Pike kid who couldn't wear whatever she wanted. All she wanted to do was wear sweatshirts with sequins on them and pushdown socks but wasn't allowed but five year old Claire could walk around with no clothes on. Also they parents of the year left sick and injured kids to go to a important tennis match in the book where all the Pike kids come down with colds, chicken box and other ailments. 

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Elnora's mother in Girl of the Limberlost. Her husband drowning and her guilt over not being able to save him because she was pregnant did not give her the right to treat her like shit. And as she later found out, her husband was kind of a piece of shit himself. So it was all for nothing!

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Watching the first episode of I Know This Much Is True reminded me of what a horrible stepfather and husband Ray was. He does get some 11th hour redemption in the book, but he's pretty monstrous before that.

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1 hour ago, GreekGeek said:

Watching the first episode of I Know This Much Is True reminded me of what a horrible stepfather and husband Ray was. He does get some 11th hour redemption in the book, but he's pretty monstrous before that.

I didn't know they made a show. I read the book when when it came out so I hardly remember it. Maybe I'll read it again and check out the show.

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Afaf's mom in The Beauty of Your Face was awful. Yes, I understand that the disappearance of Afaf's older sister was awful for her and she was already depressed and unhappy with her life in general, but none of things absolve her from being a crappy mom to Afaf. She even becomes downright abusive to Afaf just because Afaf and her dad turn to religion to deal with their own grief, acting like it's some kind of personal affront to her.

She's no different than Nena in A Thousand Spendid Suns, Melissa in Only Child, and Devi in Tiger Hills. Word of advice, ladies: whatever happened to you in your life is NOT an excuse to treat your kids like shit!

Edited by Spartan Girl

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2 hours ago, peacheslatour said:

Anybody here ever read Sybil?

Yes. As a child, she was terribly abused so it's understandable how she developed multiple personalities. I've seen articles where the story might not be true.

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14 hours ago, babyhouseman said:

Yes. As a child, she was terribly abused so it's understandable how she developed multiple personalities. I've seen articles where the story might not be true.

And one should be aware that they changed some key points re converting it from the book to the movie- including the existence of the protagonist's bullying paternal grandfather while in the movie the loving but timid paternal grandmother was a widow from Sybil's earliest childhood.

I think it's safe to say that  at the very least Dr. Wilbur  and the author Miss Schreiber changed certain autobiographical details of her patient to try to prevent others from identifying her so she could have the best chance of a contented, autonomous life after having gone through a horrific childhood. 

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On 10/13/2020 at 2:21 PM, Spartan Girl said:

She's no different than Nena in A Thousand Spendid Suns, Melissa in Only Child, and Devi in Tiger Hills. Word of advice, ladies: whatever happened to you in your life is NOT an excuse to treat your kids like shit!

Someone else who read Only Child!

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5 hours ago, anna0852 said:

Someone else who read Only Child!

Yes, I did! I already mentioned Melissa earlier on this thread but I'll do it again. Losing Andy in a school shooting was horrific and awful and on some level her anger was understandable but I lost a lot of sympathy for her when she started lashing out at Zach and actedlike she couldn't understand why he was so upset with her afterward.

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She seemed to think that because Zach didn't actually get shot that he's absolutely fine and doesn't have any trauma from being there. Which is terrible! Like in her 1st scene! I get it, you're desperately worried about where your older son is but your younger one is in front of you begging for a bathroom. I was ready to write her off completely when she made him do that TV interview and then tryingt o force Zack back to school. Talk about self serving!

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Thank you! She really bugged me in how she just ignored Zach and his needs. Losing a child is horrible, but you have another child still here who needs you!

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7 hours ago, MadyGirl1987 said:

Thank you! She really bugged me in how she just ignored Zach and his needs. Losing a child is horrible, but you have another child still here who needs you!

Seriously. And while I get her anger at the shooter's parents (though she really was downright cruel to them) the fact that she would rather devote her energy to harassing them then spend any time with Zach makes her a really shitty person who forfeits the right to accuse anyone else of bad parenting. 

Edited by Spartan Girl
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