August 27, 1997

The Kiss

Author Affiliations

Selma, Ala


by Kathryn Harrison, 207 pp, $20, ISBN 0-679-44999-X, New York, NY, Random House, 1997.

JAMA. 1997;278(8):688. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080098052

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The Kiss, a memoir by Kathryn Harrison, is exquisite. The memoir revolves around the return of an absent father when the author is a college student and the sexual relationship that develops between them. Harrison takes us through the spiral of confusion, degradation, evolution, survival, and maturation. In Basic Verities (1943), Charles Peguy wrote, "What is most contrary to salvation is not sin but habit." The author confronts both.

The Kiss came to my attention through a book review. I timidly scanned a copy at my favorite bookstore and read a few pages. I put it back. Would it give me nightmares to read such a dreadful story? I was soon back to purchase the book. I read the book rapidly, not missing a word. It was better than I had imagined. Though hers is a personal memoir, certainly not written to or about medicine, the author profoundly speaks to