Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 2, 2009

One Foot Wrong (2008), by Sofie Laguna

one foot wrongI have just finished reading One Foot Wrong for our ANZLL discussion which starts next week, and I don’t know what to write about this book. 

It’s about a child whose parents are religious nutters, and it’s written from her POV, repeating the things they say to her in a macabre sort of echo.  The parents abuse her physically and mentally, and some really shocking things happen. 

I find myself wondering why someone would want to tell a story like this.  I’m not suggesting that it shouldn’t be done; there’s a place for this kind of writing even if I don’t enjoy reading it. I just don’t understand why an author would feel compelled to put herself through the experience of vicariously living such horrors.  In an interview, Laguna explains the difficulty she had when writing it – having to write in short bursts because of needing to get away from it – but it doesn’t explain her motivation for wanting to write it in the first place or continuing with it when it was causing distress.

I get the impression that some reviewers don’t know what to make of it either.  For a (non spoiler)  summary, see Allen and Unwin; for reviews (some of which include spoilers) see the The Age, Guardian, MC Reviews, Bookishness, GoodReads and HorrorScope.

PS 30.7.09

Despite our reservations, it turned out to be a very interesting book for discussion.  One issue that came up early was whether we could trust the narrator.  Apart from whether Hester was the way she was because of nature or nurture, readers need to decide whether to believe a narrator who is mentally disturbed and/or intellectually disabled.  How much of what she tells us is true?  How much is a product of her damaged psyche?  Are some events fantasies that she wants to enact?

It was the near universal portrayal of the helping professions as lazy, corrupt, stupid or indifferent that made us suspect her.  The time period isn’t clear, but even if the story is set back in the dark days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when people were abused in mental health facilities, it’s just not credible that the psychiatrists, social workers, teachers, and nurses all let her down so comprehensively. It does seem as if Hester’s perspective is distorted – the question then becomes which bits are true.  It made me wonder, just how do mental health professionals manage to sort the fantasies from the truth when they are told about abuse?

So although this was not a book to recommend lightly, it turned out to be a stimulating discussion and we rated it 7.


  1. Well Lisa I am with you as to my reaction to this very bizarre novel. In the first half however I did think there were some brilliant pieces of writing but by the second half the ghastly goings on just brought me to the point where I was wanting the horror to be over.


    • Yes, and (while not wanting to pre-empt our discussion) it’s not like horror in cult movies for example where it is not intended that the audience should take it seriously. This is meant to be taken very seriously. It will be interesting to see what the group makes of it.


  2. I don’t think you’ve enthused me Lisa!


  3. […] One Foot Wrong, by Sofie Laguna; […]


  4. […] curious coincidence, I suppose,  that two children’s authors, Fienberg and Sofie Laguna (One foot Wrong) should contemporaneously choose to make their debut into adult fiction with novels that show […]


  5. […] Laguna who won the MF in 2015 has a new novel too: it’s called The Choke but I disliked One Foot Wrong, and abandoned The Eye of the Sheep, so since the new one apparently covers the same grim territory […]


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