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SISTER OF SILENCE

An engaging though disturbing view of rape and child abuse from a seldom-seen perspective.

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The memoir of a woman who married the man who sexually molested her from the age of 13, and her subsequent psychological struggles to be freed from his abuse.

Daleen Berry thought she was having a fairly happy childhood, except for her father’s occasional drunken outbursts of verbal and physical abuse against her mother. So when Berry’s neighbor, Eddie—a young man her family likes and the older brother of one of her friends—pushes her into actions she knows are wrong, she tries to stay a “good girl” by convincing herself they’re in love, resolving to marry him one day. When Berry becomes pregnant at 16, they finally do get married; so begins more than a decade of verbal abuse, marital rapes and Eddie’s complete disregard for Berry’s control of her own body. He forces her to have four children before she’s 22. As Eddie’s behavior deteriorates and he finds himself unable to hold a steady job, Berry begins to work outside the house to help make ends meet, despite Eddie’s protests and ridicule. Only then does Berry realize that the abuse she suffers isn’t normal—and it isn’t her fault. To her credit, Berry doesn’t present herself as a saint, nor Eddie as a complete monster. In the book’s foreword, Kenneth V. Lanning, a former FBI agent and consultant in crimes against children, introduces the running theme of the book: Acquaintance or marital rape is still rape. Berry raises the interesting—and uncomfortable—specter of a teenage girl’s budding sexuality being met by the inappropriate attention of an adult who should know better. She questions society’s tacit acceptance of violence toward women, yet all in an involving story of her background, adult life and gradual awakening to her own situation, along with her demand for something better for herself and her children. Berry—an award-winning journalist in her native West Virginia—is an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout. The ending isn’t quite as resolved as one would hope, given that the events described seem to be well in the past, but Berry gives her maturing awareness and growing strength an intriguing, thought-provoking treatment.

An engaging though disturbing view of rape and child abuse from a seldom-seen perspective.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0615388601

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Nellie Bly

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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