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A daughter's unusual revenge

A desire to confront her father's shooter yields a look at how different cultures view an ugly idea.

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Laura Blumenfeld knows all about revenge. It has occupied her thoughts and rolled off her tongue for years. And now it's the subject of her provocative first book, "Revenge: A Story of Hope," in which she explains how she carried the idea out herself.

Americans don't talk much about revenge, let alone admit to the desire publicly. It's a taboo, a concept that brings with it an unsettling sense of fear, anger, and lack of control.

That's something Ms. Blumenfeld noticed when she first started telling people she was researching and even pursuing revenge. They would become tense, often taking a step back and furrowing their brows. Even now, conducting a phone interview while standing in line at an airport, she makes those around her uncomfortable.

"People are staring at me," says the Washington Post reporter with a laugh, "I'm sitting here going on and on about revenge at a security check."

The irony of the situation is not lost on the author, whose book is being published less than a year after Sept. 11, a date that changed the way Americans look at getting even. Her book isn't so much about the nation's recent wounds, but the motivation for revenge in everything from the Middle East conflict to fights on the playground – and her own quest to avenge an attack on her father. It presents an opportunity to bring a taboo out into the light and see how it is intersecting with culture today.

Revenge and its effects are rarely far from thought, even if they're little discussed. The more extreme cases – school shootings, terrorism – end up on CNN. The milder forms take place in offices everywhere, through badmouthing or freezing out offending associates.

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