Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review: Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll

Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll
(586 pages, Bear Witness Press)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert 


Charles A. Carroll’s Hard Candy is not a book to read at bedtime. Rather, it is an eye-opening, story of boys abandoned to state institutions and the physical and sexual abuses that they endure. The author, Charles Carroll, and his brother, Bobby, are erroneously consigned as youngsters to a system for low level functioning children of every description, a world where bullies and sexual predators, pedophiles, and institutional opportunists turn blind eyes to all that the children endure. The story is told through the eyes of Chucky (Charles Carroll) and takes us from his and his brother’s initial abandonment by their parents and up to the present where Mr. Carroll, now approaching 80, continues his life’s work of fighting for the safekeeping of children everywhere. Hard Candy is a promise kept for children in custodial systems, especially for Chucky and Bobby, and it provides a cautionary tale in a world where atrocities will always seek prurient opportunities in the shadows. The language, overt racism, graphic physical descriptions, and coarse behaviors that exist in Carroll’s book feel true and unfiltered, a representation of a system that has absolutely no place for kindness.

Hard Candy is a hero’s journey, but the challenges are not metaphorical or mythic; they are the horrors faced every day, day-after-day, year-after-year, by a real boy. And, it is fair to say that this is a love story of brothers and for those innumerable children whose innocence is subverted into obsequious nightmares by adults and bullies who groom trust, breed betrayal, and sew disillusionment in those entrusted to their care. Mr. Carroll is a survivor, and beyond any sense of catharsis, Hard Candy reflects and shares memories and insights into the complex, long-termed effects of abuse and confinement.

Finally, Hard Candy concludes with more than 200 pages of additional materials, afterwards, tributes, recognitions, resources, references, and internet linkages to every state’s child abuse hotline, plus bibliographic entries that cover all aspects of abuse and its effects. In simple and direct terms, Hard Candy is a grueling story of survival that celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit, and it is a book that provides the resources and insights that young Carroll never had. This is a reference book for anyone who will join Chucky and Bobby in saying, “Never again!”

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

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