The Boy from the Basement

by Susan Shaw

ISBN-10: 0525472231

Twelve-year-old Charlie is confined to his basement without food or clothing. He’s being punished. He doesn’t mean to leave—Father wouldn’t allow it—but when Charlie is accidentally thrust outside, he awakens to the alien surroundings of a world to which he’s never been exposed. Though haunted by fear of the basement and his father’s rage, Charlie embarks on a journey toward healing and blossoms when he becomes an unconditionally loved and loving member of the right foster family.

This carefully crafted and authentic portrayal of Charlie’s emotional and physical abuse is gracefully matched by Susan Shaw’s inspiring and deeply moving story of recovery.


Imprisoned in the basement for many years by his violent father, Charlie, 12, is sure he’s being punished because he is bad, and when he escapes and is placed in a loving foster home, it takes him a long time to feel safe in the strange world outside. Through the truth of the boy’s first-person, present-tense narrative, Shaw transforms what could have been a case study of abuse and recovery into a searing story that is part thriller (Will Father find him and hurt him?) and part gentle narrative about finding a home. The psychology in Charlie’s therapy sessions is realistic; he longs to be back with his biological parents, and he desperately needs to believe they love him. But perhaps most compelling for readers are the details of Charlie’s long isolation. Here’s a child who has never seen TV or used the telephone. What is Christmas? Halloween? What is school? Then comes the quiet climax, when Charlie finally finds a place.
Charlie, 12, can’t read and doesn’t even know his last name. He does know he’s being punished because he’s bad. Father (who is plainly psychotic) keeps Charlie locked in the basement, allowing him to scavenge for food only at night; his frightened mother does nothing to help. One night he steps outside briefly, and the wind blows the door shut behind him. Terrified, he runs into the street, where he’s found and hospitalized. Because he has never gone to school, he knows nothing of the simplest things like Halloween and is convinced that he’s in danger if he goes outside. His struggle to understand his new life in a loving home and his terror of an imaginary, enormous spider that represents his father are more powerful, since it’s Charlie who tells the story. Shaw’s simple language and sentence structure effectively contribute to the realism of her psychological tale, even as she avoids a too-vivid description of physical abuse. This affecting, ultimately uplifting examination of a boy’s recovery from extreme child abuse is a stunner and certain to attract readers.