A Man Named Dave Summary

Dave Pelzer

A Man Named Dave

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A Man Named Dave Summary

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A Man Named Dave completes David Pelzer’s autobiographical trilogy that includes A Child Called “It” and The Lost Boy. A Man Named Dave begins by recounting much of the story in his previous two books. For twelve years, Pelzer suffered tremendous physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother, even though she treated her other children with kindness. The cruelty is severe and Pelzer is detailed in his recounting. As a young boy, Pelzer had his faced pushed into dirty diapers, and he was forced to eat dog feces. Pelzer was starved a week at a time, and forced to throw up upon his return from school to ensure that he was not sneaking food. When his mother caught Pelzer sneaking scraps out of the trash, she began spiking it with ammonia.

Pelzer was forced to take long, ice-cold paths, and force-fed spoonfuls of house cleaner. He was beaten with a broom, with a dog chain, and with her fists, and he was burned with the stove and stabbed in the chest. Pelzer’s mother refused to refer to him by name, calling him instead “the boy” or simply “It.”

After several years of enduring this torture at the hands of his mother, Pelzer is rescued by teachers and social workers, and placed into a series of foster homes where he blossoms. Eventually, Pelzer enlists in the Air Force where he trains to be a firefighter, as his father had been during Pelzer’s childhood.

While he finds some measure of success in his role within the Air Force, his upbringing has left Pelzer incredibly damaged. He lacks social skills as a result of his isolation. He struggles to make friends. He suffers from nightmares, waking up in his place in the barracks screaming. He feels discouraged when he is placed into jobs he does not enjoy.

Several years progress this way, at which time Pelzer learns that his father is in the hospital, dying of cancer. Pelzer has hardly seen his father since entering foster care and arrives to visit mere days before his father passes away. Pelzer had made plans to save money to buy a home to share with his father (who was never involved with the abuse because he was dealing with his own issues and alcoholism). With his father now gone, Pelzer feels that he has lost his sense of purpose.

What Pelzer does have, however, is an unbreakable will and drive to survive. He stays in the Air Force for a while, changing jobs, and transferring back to California. He moves off base for the first time, into a nearby apartment, and meets Patsy, a woman in his building who pursues him.

With no experience in romantic relationships, Pelzer is unable to maneuver the conflicts that exist with Patsy. He also struggles with destructively low self-esteem. Patsy is soon pregnant.

Though he worries that he is somehow genetically programmed to be a poor parent like his mother, Pelzer is determined to be a good father and husband. He falls instantly in love with his son as soon as the child is born, and the desire to be with his son fuels Pelzer as he serves in the Air Force during the Persian Gulf War.

Pelzer eventually retires from the Air Force and transitions to a life as a motivational speaker. This is, at times, an unprofitable endeavor, and Patsy is not supportive. Eventually, they separate amicably. Pelzer continues to work as a speaker, and while publishing his first two books, he falls in love again. He happily remarries.

Pelzer’s books discuss the effects of childhood physical abuse, and the hope one can hold through determination and a commitment to survival. Pelzer repeatedly tells his readers to let go of their pasts, especially the destructive pieces of the past, and be willing to forgive the people you love. Through this, people can fight through the worst of situations and experiences.

Pelzer’s books have been the cause of much controversy, starting with A Child Called “It” and carrying through to A Man Called Dave. The first controversies have centered on the inability to prove many of the assertions of abuse that populate so much of the books. Pelzer’s own brothers have downplayed some of the abuse, though they agree that abuse did take place. Pelzer’s mother, father, and grandmother—painted in the books as abusers or complacent—have all since died, so their side of the story will never be heard.

Other critics have noted that Pelzer’s depictions of abuse are often played for shock value. While the critics do not discount the horrors of the experience, they accuse Pelzer of describing it in a way that turns abuse into a grotesque form of voyeurism and entertainment.

Many survivors of abuse have used the book as a point of inspiration, and Pelzer’s own promotional material includes many of their testimonies.The film rights to A Child Called “It” have recently been purchased, bringing the success described in A Man Named Dave more fully to the public.