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

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SISTER OF SILENCE

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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