Both Oliver Twist and author Dennis J. Dodt share bleak upbringings in which few, if any, adults can be trusted. But unlike Dickens’ classic novel, Dodt’s Intimate Expression is a true story of poverty, abandonment, addiction, anger, and sexual abuse. The author eventually finds redemption through hard-won self-awareness and spiritual awakening, but readers will find the journey a harrowing one.
Dodt’s slim and somber memoir begins with his neglected early years in Australia. “I don’t recall my mother or father ever holding me, hugging me, touching me, or looking at me with loving eyes,” he writes. From there the horrors worsen; when at four the author’s mother dies (a question lingers as to whether his violent father is her murderer), the young boy becomes a ward of the state and a victim of abusive orphanages and heartless foster care.
It’s not surprising that Dodt wrestles with everything from obesity to suicidal thoughts in his adult years, but at age 31, thanks to a series of life-changing programs and events, he awakens to healing. The author puts his shattered life together, emerges whole, and offers hope to others by including advice and self-help suggestions in his memoir.
Though Dodt’s writing is always earnest and heartfelt, it is also often repetitive (a sharper editor’s pencil would have helped) and simplistic. Readers may be left feeling the writer’s highly personal remedies for healing are geared specifically for his unique situation and not applicable to their own. Combined with the lack of compelling writing, this factor will likely limit the book’s appeal. Still, it’s heartening to be reminded of the resilience of the human spirit, a universal lesson that resonates here.
Also available in ebook and hardcover.