SHATTERED DREAMS: The Story of Charlotte Fedders by Charlotte & Laura Elliott Fedders

SHATTERED DREAMS: The Story of Charlotte Fedders

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An earnest telling of the tribulations of a battered wife on the outer orbits of Washington, D.C.'s constellation of power. Charlotte O'Donnell grew up in Baltimore in the 50's. Eduated at a Catholic school, Charlotte had a foot-high statue of the Virgin Mary in her bedroom, and many girlfriends but few dates. Her aspirations were simple: to marry and raise a family. After college, she met John Fedders, a handsome law student. Despite his troubling habit of criticizing her publicly, Charlotte was thrilled to marry him. He was an instant star at a N.Y. law finn, but during a routine argument early in their marriage, John smacked her face and broke her eardrum. At this point, Charlotte's father suggested she leave John, but she refused: ""I loved him and I was convinced God had sent him to me as an accident, that I wasn't good enough for him."" And then she was pregnant, and during the pregnancy John hit her again. In 1972, the family bought a beyond-their-means house outside Washington. Charlotte, with a string of baby boys, accepted the routines John demanded: she helped him get dressed in the morning, enforced a no-shoes-in-the-house rule to protect an expensive new carpet. John eventually took a major salary cut to work as chief of the enforcement division at the SEC, while still roughing up Charlotte periodically. Her resolve shored up by therapy and female friends, Charlotte finally ended her marriage and blew the whistle. Elliott tells the story in the third person: although Charlotte is amply quoted, there's a lack of immediacy. What emerges is a caricature Catholic who marched to the dual cadences of guilt and inferiority. The reader rarely gets inside her torment and emerging sense of self. Charlotte's story, with its trappings of privilege and Washington quasi-glamour, is certainly an addition to the literature on battered wives, but the dearth of nuance, of telling details or moments, makes Shattered Dreams blare, not resonate.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row