The epilogue begins, “I’m so alive.” David Pelzer stands on the beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean—it’s a beautiful day. He notices a piece of wood with an “odd, twisted shape.” The wood is swept back and forth in the waves, and seems to be “struggling to stay ashore.” Then the waves pull the wood back into the ocean. In many ways, the wood reminds Dave of his former life—his life began with “being pushed and pulled in every direction.” Dave struggled to escape the cycle of cruelty and torture—and then, unexpectedly, he broke free.
The memoir ends with Dave as an adult, looking back on his old life. Like a piece of wood, Dave was once at the mercy of powerful, cruel forces—above all, his cruel, manipulative mother. But now, Dave claims, he’s broken free of the past. (However, Dave doesn’t go into detail about how he adjust to his new life in a foster home, or how he struggles to come to terms with his traumatic experiences.)
Dave knows that he’s been very lucky. He made himself a promise: if he ever came out of his situation alive, he would make something of himself and be “the best person that I could be.” Dave has learned how to let go of his past and appreciate the things that most people take for granted. Most of all, Dave has come to learn that “the good Lord” is always watching over him, giving him love and encouragement when he needs it. Dave enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and developed a love for American values and tradition. He’s come to realize that America is a place in which people can come from humble beginnings and become winners.
Without delving into much detail, Dave describes how he’s learned to overcome self-hatred with the help of Christianity. He’s found ways of leading a productive life—first by serving in the military (in real life, he served in the Air Force during the Gulf War in the early 1990s) and later by working as a spokesman for child abuse victims. Although, in many ways, Dave is a victim of American society’s indifference to suffering (for years, after all, Dave’s neighbors turned a blind eye to his abuse), he’s come to see America as a great country in which people can pursue happiness.
Dave gets back in his car and drives out to the city of Guerneville. He stops outside ‘the same home where a lifetime ago my family and I stayed during out summer vacations.” He steps outside and leads his son Stephen beside the house, and stares out at the Russian River. As Dave stares out, Stephen says, “Love you, Dad.” Crying with joy, Dave responds, “Love you, too, son.” He concludes, “I’m free.”
Perhaps Dave Pelzer’s proudest achievement is raising a son. One of the greatest tragedies of child abuse is that victims of child abuse often grown up to become abusive parents. However, the Epilogue suggests that Dave has become no such thing—he’s become a loving father, effectively ending the cycle of child abuse. Notice, also, that his son is named after Father—suggesting that, in spite of Father’s indifference to cruelty, Dave has continued to show him some love.