In brief

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
Tiger's Child

By Torey Hayden

Harper Collins pound;5.99

Torey Hayden's memoir One Child is the story of how she worked, as a special needs teacher in the United States in the Seventies, with a deeply troubled child called Sheila (TES, December 24, 2004).

At the end of One Child, Sheila leaves the school, waving from the window of a bus. It's a good place to stop, as a trapped child is set free and given wings.

Tiger's Child sets out to answer some questions for those of us who wonder what happened to Sheila. In this account, Sheila returns as a teenager.

She spends time with Torey, helping on a summer school programme, and together they recall the past, a process that enables them both to explore the feelings that Sheila had as a child. Inevitably, there are further revelations of childhood abuse that Torey wasn't aware of at the time.

In many ways the reunion is like that between an adopted child and a birth parent; there's a certain awkwardness at first. "Sheila expelled a noisy breath and shook her head. 'This is so weird,' she said. 'Like, I always think of you as someone I know well.' She looked over. 'But really we're no more than strangers.'"

There are conflicts, and towards the end a heart-stopping crisis, because Sheila's damaged childhood has had its lasting effects. The conclusion is hopeful, with Sheila settled into successful adulthood. "Things have turned out pretty good for me," Sheila writes at last to Torey. "I've got a great job and my own apartment and a dog named Mike."

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