A debut Romanian author presents a memoir of trauma, immigration, and spiritual awakening.
Manyi-Orellana writes that she was 4 years old when an unnamed neighbor in Romania first sexually assaulted her. She tells of more instances of abuse over the next several years; once, she says, she was forced to go on a ski trip with her family to her abuser’s family home in the country. In 1988, when the author was 10, she and her immediate family left Romania for the United States. Her adjustment to life in New York City wasn’t always easy, but when she returned to her home country to visit a sick grandmother, things were far worse, as she was trapped and raped by an older man. After returning to America, the author says, she experienced other difficulties, including an abortion at 18 after an accidental pregnancy and strained communications with her parents. As an adult, she started a family with a man who later intentionally set their house on fire. She writes that although she had always doubted the presence of God, she eventually turned to religion for comfort. After some false starts, she grew to find peace through religious belief and specifically found strength in Scripture; she figured out that “hell is real and so is God.” Although Manyi-Orellana’s memoir is light on specific details, the account of her journey is truly a jarring one. In particular, readers will get a vivid sense of what it’s like to live with long-term abuse. The book makes for a quick read, as it’s fewer than 70 pages long. However, some portions move so quickly that they can become confusing; for example, her account of her spouse’s arson and ensuing arrest creates more questions than it answers. How did he go about the task, for instance, and what were the court proceedings like? Overall, the author’s story is certainly striking, but readers may wish for more detailed information.
A heartfelt but sparse portrait of a difficult life.