Dancing with the Octopus: Book summary and reviews of Dancing with the Octopus by Debora Harding

Dancing with the Octopus

A Memoir of a Crime

by Debora Harding

Dancing with the Octopus by Debora Harding X
Dancing with the Octopus by Debora Harding
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

For readers of Educated and The Glass Castle, a harrowing, redemptive and profoundly inspiring memoir of childhood trauma and its long reach into adulthood.

One Omaha winter day in November 1978, when Debora Harding was just fourteen, she was abducted at knifepoint from a church parking lot. She was thrown into a van, assaulted, held for ransom, and then left to die as an ice storm descended over the city.

Debora survived. She identified her attacker to the police and then returned to her teenage life in a dysfunctional home where she was expected to simply move on. Denial became the family coping strategy offered by her fun-loving, conflicted father and her cruelly resentful mother.

It wasn't until decades later - when beset by the symptoms of PTSD- that Debora undertook a radical project: she met her childhood attacker face-to-face in prison and began to reconsider and reimagine his complex story. This was a quest for the truth that would threaten the lie at the heart of her family and with it the sacred bond that once saved her.

Dexterously shifting between the past and present, Debora Harding untangles the incident of her kidnapping and escape from unexpected angles, offering a vivid, intimate portrait of one family's disintegration in the 1970s Midwest.

Written with dark humor and the pacing of a thriller, Dancing with the Octopus is a literary tour de force and a groundbreaking narrative of reckoning, recovery, and the inexhaustible strength it takes to survive.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"[I]ntense...This moving story of grit and resilience will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A powerful account of sexual assault and decades of lingering trauma...A thoughtfully told story that may inspire others to find healing in the wake of savage crime." - Kirkus Reviews

"Compelling… Harding is completely honest, whether describing her wariness, defiance, bewilderment, self-doubt, or the truths she eventually discovered about herself and her parents. Her unsparing and candid observations allow readers to really get to know this strong, determined survivor." - Booklist

"Dancing with the Octopus is a brave and authentic picture of the tailwinds of trauma, the limits of human forgiveness and what it takes to maintain hope in a world bent on breaking us. Highly readable, and deeply moving." - Rachel Louise Snyder, award-winning author of No Visible Bruises

"A gripping account of one woman's confrontation with the terror and heartbreak of her past. Harding combines true crime and family saga to illustrate the aftershocks of trauma, and the courage, tenderness, and humor that recovery requires." - Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me

"Debora Harding writes with a stunningly original mixture of insight, wit, and humanity about a life packed with so much drama, loss and resilience that you can't believe it's not an epic work of fiction." - Kate Weinberg, author of The Truants

This information about Dancing with the Octopus was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Debora Harding

Debora Harding has had varied professional experiences including work in national U.S. politics for ten years, co-founding the UK's first local terrestrial television station, and management of a bicycle business. Her work has been published in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, and elsewhere. The mother of two children, she spent her childhood in Nebraska and Iowa, and now lives in England with her British husband, the writer Thomas Harding.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more biography/memoir...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Last Nomad
by Shugri Said Salh
In her brilliant memoir, Salh chronicles the unique survival skills and folklore learned from her early life as a nomad in Somalia.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.