In 1967 William Hayes was 12 years old when he's targeted by a pedophile named Charlie Schoeler. Over the next three years his life becomes split between the normal world of any young boy and the secret world Charlie draws him towards. A deceptively plausible one he falls further and further into until it becomes his life.
The novel takes you back to a time and place before society was fully aware there were predators like him. It tells the story of the planned and calculated way a child molester goes about selecting his victims and how he views and treats them once they become dependent on him.
Charlie Schoeler seemed to have everything. He's a well thought of teacher who has the respect of his community and a close circle of friends he's known since childhood. To all outward appearances his life is satisfying and fulfilling. He takes care of his mother and tutors children who need help after school. Nobody suspects what he really is. Charlie is able to hide behind the strictures and mores that still govern society at that time. The sexual revolution is just beginning in America and most people aren't aware men like him exist. Even his closest friends and colleagues see his "mentoring" of young boys as something laudable.
William Hayes is an average student and good athlete. Like most children of that time he's been bought up to be polite and obedient. When Mr. Schoeler asks if he'd like to go to the beach he jumps at the chance. His parents like Mr. Schoeler, he'd taught William's older sister and put a lot of effort into helping make her a better student. Teachers were trusted in those days and his mother gives him permission to go.
What follows is at turns heartbreaking and horrifying, disturbing and sometimes humorous. An always insightful look into the world of an abused child told from his point of view. The years he spends with Charlie and the damage done to him. His struggle to get away at the age of 15 and the subsequent problems he has adjusting to normal life. It follows him into his mid-twenties when he decides he needs to have answers to what really happened.
William goes back to talk to Charlie, understanding confrontation will never get him what he needs, information. In the same way Charlie built a bridge of trust to seduce him as a child, William does the same. He becomes Charlie's confidant and eventually learns what he needs in order to close that chapter on his life and make what peace he can with it.
I want the reader to understand why I'm calling this book a work of "fiction" as opposed to a straight recounting of events.
All of this happened over 50 years ago and although my memory is good it's not perfect. I had to reconstruct some conversations and timelines.
Not many, but a few of the characters are composites of two or three people. Some of the situations and conversations that occurred may have happened over a longer period of time than what I represent in the book. When something like that occurred, in the interests of brevity and accuracy, I felt it served the narrative better to narrow it down to one conversation in one time and place.
I changed some of the locations where these events happened and made up the town of Port Esther although it's based on a real community.
I have no problem disclosing I was the victim of a pedophile, but don't feel it fair to do the same to others who were affected, either directly or indirectly. Most of the major characters in the book are still alive and I didn't want to put anyone in a position where they could be identified. I purposely changed everyone's name and gave as little personal information about them as possible.
The first half of the book is as accurate as I could make it. Everything I wrote up to and including me at 15 years old happened in the sequence and time frames I put down. The slightly fictionalized part of the story comes in after I turned 16. Like everyone else, as I became a teenager and got older other factors and people entered my life. I wanted to keep the focus of the book on what happened between Charlie and I. This is the part of the book where some of the things I learned and insights I was able to gain might come from other sources or situations that happened outside of my life with Charlie. I didn't want to go off on a tangent, introducing new characters or events that would have required extensive explanations.
One thing I can state is the emotional content of the book is 100% accurate. I still remember everything I felt because of him, whether one day or 50 years had passed.
Amazing book, great story. So many reasons to applaud this book. Gripping, thought-provoking, inspirational and well written. Told with an understanding and insight I never expected. I am extremely impressed with the author, his insight and his strength. Just reading a few pages online was enough to get me hooked. I like the author, I like his attitude. And he is a natural story teller. It was like hearing it from your best friend from childhood. He has your attention, he takes you back with him, he has you spellbound. I'm grateful he shared his story with us. It's been several weeks since I read it and I'm still sifting through it in my mind. It will be with me for a long time.
"Unraveling Charlie" is a well written story of child abuse, survival, acceptance, and understanding of his abuser's mental illness, by a victim of a pedophile. It takes the reader from a betrayal of a child's trust to an adult's acceptance and understanding of his former abuser. It is easy to read and holds the reader's attention with a vivid description of a boy's mental state and relationships through his years of abuse. Notwithstanding the serious subject matter and relevance to current events, this book is a poignant coming of age novel. It is highly recommended.
Page by page the reader is drawn farther and deeper into the story of Donnie and Charlie. There is enough graphic description to leave no doubt that Charlie qualifies as a pedophile, yet, thankfully, the author stops short of TMI. Just barely short. . . .
What is fascinating in this read is the continuing, expanded life of the author PAST his juvenile involvement with Charlie. How he thought. . . how he felt as he struggled to put "normalcy" and balance back into his young life.
This is a moving story of predation, abuse, confusion, resolve and triumph - words far to simplistic to really describe the emotional journey the reader takes along with Don McLean.
This fictionalized memoir is particularly relevant and insightful given the Jerry Sandusky trial and his conviction for abusing 10 young boys over a 15 year period. From what I've read in the news, the victims' testimony about Sandusky's methods eerily mirrors Donald McLean's descriptions of his abuser, Charlie. This book is well-written, disturbing, heart-breaking, insightful, and even humorous at times. I couldn't put it down; I had to finish reading it. I hope this story helped the author and helps other victims of child abuse. I highly recommend this book.
An excellent first hand account of a man whose life as a teenager was involved with an adult child molester. The relationship that developed between them is typical of the control the adult has in that kind of situation and what eventually happens to bring it to a close. The author's first hand account gives us a vivid picture of his personal struggles and his ability to rise above it all to actually forgive the man who treated him to years of control and domination. What is very interesting for me is the fact that other adults at that time were either totally unaware of what was going on or just to self involved to realize what the author was going through! I enjoyed the author's style of writing while dealing with the complexities of this kind of relationship, if it can be called that.