Beneath My Smile

SEARCHING FOR LOVE, PEACE AND HAPPINESS

An intense victimization saga.

A Trinidad-born woman, now a U.S.–based nurse, describes her traumatic childhood and tumultuous adult experiences in this debut memoir.

At age 3, Bella was left with her father, a Trinidad-based funeral home operator, when her mother fled to the U.S. with Bella’s sister. After a frantic period of “international kidnapping,” Bella and her sister spent the bulk of their childhood back in Trinidad with their father and his girlfriend/eventual wife, whom Bella dubbed “El Diabla Puta” (“The Devil Whore”). While Bella endured ongoing abuse from this pair (beatings, lack of food, etc.), her father’s half brother sexually molested her. Although Bella and her sister returned to their mother as teenagers, the damage was done. Bella got pregnant, married young, and spent her adult life “running and running as fast as I could from all my doubts, fears, and my past filled with a multitude of poor choices right at my heels.” While she eventually earned a nursing degree that allowed her to support herself (and flee stalking and deadbeat lovers), she also made “a career out of being pregnant just when I was ready to bail out of a bad relationship” and bore four children, all with different, problematic fathers. But by memoir’s end, Bella “can see the strength that I possess. I don’t know what’s in God’s divine plan for me, but I will continue to be the best I can be while enjoying life to the fullest without any more regrets.” The author has penned an initially gripping, then ultimately unrelenting tale of endless turmoil. While she makes note of “how much I have grown,” there is more focus, indeed overload, in this narrative on her destructive patterns repeating themselves, with one of her final chapters, for example, detailing her return to a cheating lover. She is also surprisingly detached about the travails and imprisonment of her daughter, noting, “She and I had this odd disconnect from the very beginning.” Still, this is certainly a striking snapshot of the vicious, damaging cycles that can arise from childhood trauma.

An intense victimization saga.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8266-3

Page Count: 180

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2016

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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