Friday, August 3, 2012

S.C. woman's "Cruel Harvest" explores a dark childhood

Fran Grubb lives in Ninety Six, S.C., a little town between Greenville and Columbia. At 62, she’s a curly-haired grandmother, a singer and public speaker.
Most of all, she’s a survivor.
In her new memoir, “Cruel Harvest” (Thomas Nelson; $22.99), Grubb tells the story of a childhood that included near starvation, beatings and sexual abuse. It’s a dark story, but one that’s likely to give hope to others.
“So many people,” she says, “have been through the same thing.”
How bad was her childhood? So bad that being sent to an orphanage, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in Greenwood, S.C., proved a godsend. There, she learned to make a bed and brush her teeth. When she scraped her knee, she got her first Band-Aid.
This safe harbor was short lived. Her father kidnapped Grubb and her sister after they’d been there less than a year.
As he’s absconding with them, she recalls in the book, he tells them: “They didn’t want you in that home anymore. That old woman begged me to take you off her hands.”
Grubb portrays her father as a monster, a violent alcoholic whose cruelties include snatching a hamburger from the hand of his own hungry child.
In an interview, I asked if she ever saw any redeeming qualities.
None, she told me.
The best she can say for him is that he suffered a head injury as a young man. Perhaps, she says, it changed his personality.
Grubb escaped her father and got a job in a drug store at age 15. She had almost no formal education. Though her mother taught her to read, she left school in third grade. Her parents were migrant workers, and her father kept her and her siblings out of school to work in the fields, picking cotton and other crops.
Once on her own, Grubb taught herself multiplication tables, read voraciously in the public library and earned a GED and a real estate license.
Eventually, she began telling her story at churches, prisons, centers for abused women. She even told it at the Connie Maxwell orphanage. She got a standing ovation.
It took years, Grubb says, but with the help of her faith, she has forgiven her father.
In a moving scene near the book’s end, her husband learns where her father is buried – in an unmarked grave in Cowpens, S.C.
They erect a headstone. For its inscription, Grubb chooses a Bible verse from Matthew:
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.