A deeply disturbing debut memoir about physical intimidation and emotional abuse that tears a family apart.
The author and her husband, Charles Mask, met while both were in a 12-step program for their alcohol addiction. They had, she thought, a good marriage, although Charles occasionally displayed signs of narcissistic domination. Still, she concentrated on home and hearth, delighting in caring for their three children, Jade, Zach, and Leonard. But the relationship deteriorated as Charles undermined her authority with Jade and became more frequently verbally abusive and accusatory. Jade was the first to become blatantly hostile toward her mother; ultimately, the others followed her lead. After years of legal battles and volumes of testimony, Charles was awarded complete custody of the children. And, as Mask carefully details, he convinced them that she was their enemy. Mask’s children have remained alienated from her for more than 13 years, though they all have reached adulthood. Mask admits that during the tumultuous six years of fighting for custody, she became psychologically fragile, fell off the wagon more than once, and entered a rehabilitation facility for several months. But she also offers ample evidence of the love she and the children once shared—photographs, notes written by one child or another, etc. In large measure, this oversized volume is a plea to her children to remember the good years, to reach beyond what professionals call the dynamic of “Parental Alienation Syndrome.” It’s also a passionate call to reform the child custody system. The stunner in this story is the extent to which the author was ill-served by her attorney, the justice system, and the mental health professionals who were supposed to help. Copies of legal documents and psychological evaluations display marked favoritism toward Mask’s husband. Mask bolsters her argument with excerpts from numerous accredited studies. The rage and pain that pour from every page is certainly understandable, although it makes for difficult reading. And a running heavy focus on her religious convictions threatens to distract readers from a sociologically valuable work.
Emotionally taxing but courageous; especially appropriate for abused spouses and the professionals who council them.