Book Review: Dancing with the Octopus

09.22.2020 | Bloomsbury Publishing
Rating: 4/5 stars


DANCING WITH THE OCTOPUS is a memoir of childhood trauma and its long reach into adulthood. In November 1978, Debora Harding was only fourteen. She was abducted at knifepoint from her church parking lot. Debora was thrown into a van, assaulted, held for ransom, and left to die as an ice storm took hold on Omaha. She was able to survive and identify her attacker to the police. Her attempts to return to a normal teenage life amongst her dysfunctional family left her in an environment of denial instead of support. It wasn’t until decades later that Debora decided to take back her life by meeting her childhood attacker in person. 

Harding’s story unfolds within the pages of DANCING WITH THE OCTOPUS to reveal not only the trauma from her childhood, but also an intimate reflection on her family and the PTSD she carried with her for decades after her attack. Short chapters rapidly alternate back and forth through the timeline of Harding’s life to ultimately create a well-rounded story of everything that she went through. While the crime of Harding’s childhood is the catalyst for this story, the book is much more than just the exploration of one event. There are layers to unpack within this book that are heartbreaking, but also filled with recovery and Harding’s fantastic sense of humor. I highly recommend this nonfiction read to anyone interested in memoirs, mental health, and true crime.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s