Chasing Tarzan by Catherine Forster is the story about Catherine’s life from the time she was a very young girl til the end of high school in the 1960s/70s. Memoirs are hit or miss for me and I loved this one.
Catherine’s grew up the second child in what would become a family of 8 children. It was the early 60s, her parents were very young, Catholic, and had child after child. Catherine became “mommy’s little helper” and even by the time she was three or four she was helping out. As she got older (but not that old, I think at one point she was only maybe 8) she was babysitting, doing laundry, helping to cook and clean etc. It was part of being one of the older kids in a large family and part being a girl.
Catherine’s responsibilities at home (with little to no thanks or recognition), an older brother who tormented her, a bully at school who made her life miserable for years, and her unhappiness about her weight all led Catherine to retreating within herself and fantasizing that she was in Tarzan (one of her favorite movies). Tarzan would protect her or swoop in on a vine and take her away from her bully that would call her animal names and call her fat. Catherine learns to cope with all of this as she gets older, but that doesn’t mean she was happy. It’s not until a year abroad on a student exchange program to New Zealand does she learn to let people in (she had bad experiences in the past with people she thought were being kind actually making fun fo her) and learn who she really is. And that time away from her family, plus getting older, helped her gain perspective. For example, she realized that her parents were doing the best they could with so many kids and only being a handful of years older than her when she was born. Her year away wasn’t a magical remedy that helped her forget about her years of being bullied, but it helped her become more active in her life and shaped her future.
I thought the book was so engaging and relatable. While I didn’t grow up in a large family nor did I feel bullied for years, I think anyone can relate to feeling forgotten or overlooked, taken for granted, or like your every action is up for scrutiny. In short, I loved it!
*I was sent this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.*