BETTER THAN THIS by Cathy Zane

BETTER THAN THIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman finds her way out of an abusive relationship and makes peace with her past.

In this debut contemporary novel, Zane tells the story of Sarah Jenkins, a wife, mother, and English teacher. In the book’s first chapters, Sarah does not understand that her husband, Robert, usually away from home on extended work trips, is an emotional abuser whenever he is present. Robert’s nature is obvious to readers from the opening pages, as the author’s close narration of Sarah’s thoughts makes it clear how desperately she strives to avoid upsetting Robert and how much of herself she sacrifices in the process. As Robert escalates to physical violence, Sarah draws back from her friends. (“You can’t let her see what a mess you’ve made of things. She wouldn’t want to be friends with you anymore.”) But fellow mother Kate and co-worker Maggie eventually team up to make Sarah face her situation and deal with the unresolved issues of her childhood that have left her willing to put up with an untenable family life. When matters reach a crisis point, Sarah eventually learns to rely on her friends’ support; to make the right decisions for herself and her young daughter, Lizzy; and to stop worrying about the reactions of Robert’s wealthy and judgmental mother. (“ ‘It was the best party, Lizzy,’ Cynthia said. ‘Bestest isn’t a word.’ ”) Zane, a therapist and former nurse, does an excellent job of capturing the raw emotions of her characters and even succeeds in making Robert, the clear villain of the tale, marginally sympathetic when readers learn about the secret he has spent years concealing. The result is a satisfying and cathartic work of women’s fiction that offers an engaging and easy-to-get-into read, perfect for fans of authors Susan Wiggs and Holly Chamberlain. Although it can be painful to read the intimate depictions of emotional abuse, Zane allows the audience to feel like part of Sarah’s support network rather than a voyeur and to ultimately enjoy a difficult story.

A well-executed tale of abuse, empowerment, and healing.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63152-403-5
Page count: 261pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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