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Review of "The Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's Home"

By Paolo Hewitt
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2014
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H. on Mar 3rd 2015
The Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's Home

The Looked After Kid is a book about the life of the author, Paolo Hewitt, focusing sharply on Hewitt's personal experience as a looked after kid in a Children's Home.  Hewitt is a journalist and a prolific writer of books.  In an "Epilogue" following the text, Hewitt writes pensively that he came to realize that he was writing the book for many different persons:  his mother, whose life was so harsh; his two half-sisters, Frankie and Nina; his second family of friends, who helped him along his path with encouragement and love; but most of all for the kids in Hewitt's Home, and for the thousands (like Hewitt) whose lives, through no fault of their own, have been made hell by the hate and cruelty of others.

In recounting anecdotally bits and pieces of his life, Hewitt exhibits very keen vision for spotting details, which he puts to paper in an enthrallingly detailed manner.

The reader is further held in thrall by the multitude of anecdotal quotes copiously suffusing the textual contents in substantively enlivening fashion.

The many insights proffered by Hewitt, regarding human nature and behavior, further animate the text's body.

It must be said as well that Hewitt reveals his feelings and emotions quite candidly; and congruently, he offers many opinions notable for their bluntness.

A sobering tone is sounded loudly by the instrument of Hewitt's life recollections.

Hewitt informs readers that he was placed in a nursery that cared for orphans.  The last thing he remembers from the nursery is playing on the floor; and a shadow falls suddenly in front of him.  Looking up, Hewitt sees his new mother, Mrs K.  As described by Hewitt, with critical candor, cruelty lived and breathed beneath the skin of her face.

Hewitt swears that, on some occasions, he could almost reach out and touch cruelty as it passed through the eyes of Mrs K.

Here and there, Hewitt is wont to philosophical type musing.

In the Epilogue, Hewitt muses that, if someone else had taken a shine to him (when he was living in the nursery), his life would have been completely different:  either absolutely joyful, or else even worse than it proved to be.

Mrs K., as Hewitt recollects bleakly, cast a dark shadow upon Hewitt under which he lived constantly.  But then Hewitt's time with Mrs K. was over.  As recalled by Hewitt, one evening a car picked him up at the home of Mrs K.; and he was taken to his new home, a house named Woodrough, in Bramley.  Hewitt soon learned that Woodrough was a halfway house.  It was at Woodrough that Hewitt, at age ten, first met his real mother.

But again, a car came and took Hewitt away.  Hewitt's sojourn at Woodrough was over.  His new home was the Children's Home, in Surrey.

The writing brush of skilled artist Hewitt, with skillfully applied strokes, paints a very revealingly detailed picture of Hewitt's personal experience of being a looked after kid in a Children's Home.

As stated by Hewitt, with his customary forthrightness, he was resentful that, whatever one does as a looked after kid, whether good or bad, there will always be someone asking questions about it.

According to Hewitt, looked after kids are either absolute bastards or else saints; looked after kids either want to avenge the world or else save it.

Hewitt explains that looked after kids have a million questions but never quite believe the answers given, because the lives of looked after kids are so removed from the lives of others that everything becomes a half dream.

And further, every looked after kid is selfish.  As Hewitt explains, one doesn't have one's life shattered forever and then not spend most of the time thinking about it and oneself.

From a social worker, Hewitt found out that the man he thought was his father actually was not; that man was the father of Nina and Frankie, but not the father of Hewitt.  The social worker did not know who Hewitt's father was or where he was.  On hearing this, as recounted by Hewitt, he felt stab wounds in his soul; and saw his heart turn black.  Later on in life, Hewitt's mother will tell him that his father's name is Mr Cruise.

After Hewitt's mother died, he took her ashes to Sorrento; and sprinkled them in the bay of Napoli.  Hewitt writes that he feels closer to his mother now, now that he understands her life and her pain; and that he has clung hard to that in him which is Italian.  Musing plaintively, Hewitt tells readers that he does not know his father; and that he has been stripped of his country, his birthright, and his class; even his name has been stolen from him.

As the book nears its end, Hewitt confides to readers that he is moving towards peace within himself.  But it has not been easy.  More and more, as Hewitt looks back over his years, he sees how unhappy he truly was.  And he admonishes:  beware the unhappy, for theirs is the sweetest revenge of all.  Hewitt also confesses that he still has days where depression and bitter anger make him hate everyone in the world.  But most of the time, Hewitt gasps at the beauty of the world, and is touched by the human kindness and care shown towards him.  As he puts it, he is moving towards the light.

Hewitt's critically blunt recounting of his life, focusing especially on his personal experience as a looked after kid in a Children's Home, enthralls the reader.

Social workers and child psychiatrists are among those who, professionally, may particularly benefit from reading this strongly riveting book.


© 2015 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.  Twitter @LeoUzych