NOT EXACTLY LOVE by Betty Hafner

NOT EXACTLY LOVE

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this memoir, a battered wife endures years of beatings in silence.

There were signs from the very beginning that Hafner’s (Where Do I Go from Here, 2001, etc.) husband had anger issues. Jack Brennan was quick to blame others for tiny irritations, ranting compulsively about perceived injustices at work, and the first time he punched her in the arm was two days before their wedding. But he was exciting and attentive, a bit of a rebel with his longish hair, and a delightfully energetic lover. The year was 1969; Hafner was turning 25 and looking for love. She was in her fourth year as a French teacher at a Long Island high school; he was the new young science teacher. The chemistry between them was intoxicating. One year later, they were married. In her harrowing tale, Hafner recounts years of shame, fear, and beatings that followed the hopeful nuptials. Violent episodes are interspersed with glorious days at the beach and the joy of refurbishing a small house the couple bought on a South Shore canal. Then there was the tenderness with which Brennan treated the two cats he adopted from a shelter. This was just enough for Hafner to deny to herself what was happening, to continue making excuses for him: “I decided that his anger was just an expression of passion for life, and I had to accept him as he was…I wasn’t even beginning to guess where it might go.” In this brutally honest account, played out against the music of the ’70s, Hafner graphically depicts Brennan’s eyes turning cold and his rants gaining manic momentum, finally resulting in a punch to her face or a chair thrown at her head—all of it happening rapidly, unpredictably, without more than a minute or two of warning. The author found herself living two lives—one at work where she was happy and successful, and one at home where she disappeared into a shell, frozen in terror. After one violent episode, Hafner recounts: “I unwound myself, stood up on shaky legs, and opened the freezer and smoothed an ice cube along my face. I didn’t cry though. Tears were nowhere near. I felt no sadness, no anger. Fear trumped them both.”

Prose that vividly and courageously articulates a cautionary tale of abuse, with more than a nod to pathological codependence.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63152-149-2
Page count: 206pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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