My review of PUSH by Sapphire is long overdue. During my frequent travels, I picked this book up in an airport bookstore and I didn’t put it down until the last page. The book is a very short one, but it was very powerful. I originally wrote this review in 2009 and slightly updated it in 2011.
PUSH is a heart-breaking tale of a young inner-city girl-turned-woman named Clareece “Precious” Jones who is brutally abused – sexually, physically, and emotionally by her father. The story becomes deeper and more disturbing upon learning that Precious is being abused by her mother as well. The poor child ends up birthing two children fathered by her own dad.
Precious is academically challenged, not necessarily because she is slow, but because she is unable to concentrate in school due to the trauma that she is suffering at home. Her mother forces her to eat so that she will remain overweight; her mother then molests her and forces her to perform sexual acts.
The first baby that Precious had is mentally retarded, and Precious is not able to see the child. Her mother is living off of the system; she encompasses all of the worst attributes of a woman living in poverty and despair. Surprisingly, the author did not make Precious’ mother a drug addict. However, she must have been mentally disturbed to do and allow such things to be done to her child. Precious’ grandmother, seemingly aware of the horrors taking place, is also living off the system and does nothing to help the girl. Her grandmother is caring for the mentally retarded baby in order to receive money from the government for the baby.
An important change takes place in Precious’ life when her high school sends her to an alternative program. For the first time, Precious is able to talk about her problems and begins to learn; she experiences the joys of journaling and talking about her feelings. Her teacher genuinely cares about her, although she does give Precious some questionable advice about being a mother. The book mirrors Precious’ progress from being functionally illiterate to being able to express herself with words. The author’s writing is choppy and words are misspelled at the beginning of Precious’ journey, but the writing clears as Precious’ thoughts clear.
The reader begins to hope that Precious will be a success story, overcoming the years of abuse to become a strong mother and an educated person. She develops career goals, gives birth to her second child, moves away from her mother, and seems to be making progress. It was literally painful to read her thoughts as she begins to realize the depth of the abuse that she has suffered, questioning why no one helped her over the years, why the education system passed her on from grade to grade even as she wasn’t learning, and why the authorities didn’t step in when she was clearly being raped by and fathered a child by her dad. She begins to wonder what it’s like to be loved by a man, to have a real boyfriend, to have true intimacy rather than being raped, to have had a childhood, to have been “attractive” instead of fat, to be innocent instead of being victimized.
Despite the painful healing process, again the reader hopes….until Precious’ mother comes to visit her and reveals devastating news that will change Precious’ life forever.
I must warn potential readers of this book that it’s not for the faint at heart. I was reading about horrors that I never even imagined a person, let alone a young child, going through. I cringed as the abuse was described. I almost cried at the fate that Precious was doomed to.
Even though it is difficult to read this book without shedding a tear, it’s important for everyone to read, especially people who have not been through abuse and want to understand it. It was eye-opening and educational. It was a book that I will NEVER forget. The ending left me with many questions. Some have described the ending as being “incomplete.” However, I feel that it was best for the author not to tie the end of the story in a neat bow; after all, in real life, many of the issues faced by abused and neglected children are never resolved. In that way, this book accurately reflects life.
PUSH has been made into a movie, best known for Mo’Nique’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Hopefully, the book and the movie will encourage victims of abuse to talk about their experiences and seek help.