It’s not too hard to see why Rosie O’Donnell digs House Rules, a memoir by Rachel Sontag (left) about growing up in what she describes as an abusively controlling environment by a domineering father who went so far as to dope his wife up on lithium to keep her from divorcing him and rescuing Sontag and her sister from his tyranny. And then there’s a little note in O’Donnell’s (idiosyncratically typed) recommendation: “read her dads amazon response.”
And, oh boy, her father lashes out hard. Two reviews posted earlier this week, purportedly from both of Sontag’s parents, describe her in no uncertain terms as a fraud. “What Rachel Sontag does not want you to know are the many events that she refused to share,” this review claims. “They are not pleasant, but they are critical to understanding the duplicity and deceit of an adult with a fabricated childhood.” According to this version of events, Sontag was a willful brat who for some quasi-Oedipal reason was fixated on busting up her parents’ marriage and managed to convince several relatives to buy into her pathology. (Yes, yes, I know that with women it’s supposed to be an “Electra complex,” but the review explicitly states that she wanted to drive away her father to live alone with her mother.) The attacks get extremely personal, even gratuitously mean: “Rachel created conflict whenever she was at home,” the reviewer claiming to be her father writes, “which is why life was so pleasant when she was away.” Ouch.
Amazon.com customers have already started picking sides—and the side they’re picking is usually Rachel’s. “It must be terribly embarrassing to have your daughter write such a beautiful book about such a sad and dysfunctional family situation,” runs a typical response. “Rachel needs to have her feelings and memories acknowledged with love and respect,” says another reader. “I doubt this has ever been done or her book would have had a different ending.” O’Donnell herself even weighed in early in the process, declaring “this letter confirms everything [R]achel wrote in her book.”
Now I’m sorta curious about whether Sontag’s parents put in the extra effort to drive into Chicago last weekend to heckle her homecoming appearance on Mark Bazer‘s interview show, or maybe pass out leaflets about what a “tramp” their daughter is as the audience made their way to their seats. Sheesh.