After surviving horrific violence at a young age, a woman dedicates her life to preventing child abuse in Bassler’s debut novel.
When 7-year-old Cindy is brutally beaten by her stepfather, her injuries are so severe her doctor likens them to those he’s seen from “high-speed car accidents.” After several months of rehabilitative therapy, Cindy relearns how to walk and talk, but the abuse has changed her life forever. Although she has a resilient spirit, the support of caring doctors and loving foster parents to help her overcome her trauma, she doesn’t forget what happened to her. As an adult, she dedicates herself to helping other abused children as a social-services caseworker. She does save some kids from violence, but her failures haunt her—particularly one involving young Brittany, who was murdered by her father. Cindy resolves that the best way to stop severe child abuse is to run for office, with a goal of making child abuse a federal crime. The Green Party supports her candidacy for U.S. Senate, and after an unlikely plot twist, Cindy wins the election. She outmaneuvers cynical Senate power players through luck and force of will, and eventually sees her sweeping child-abuse legislation passed. She then personally lobbies the president to sign the bill into law, arguing that doing so will allow him to “write [his] name in the history books.” Bassler’s accounts of child abuse are appropriately brutal, and include horrifying, clinical descriptions of children’s injuries (“her head snapped back, cracking the vertebrae and severing her spinal cord”), as well as child-abuse statistics (“an estimated 906,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect last year”). However, although Cindy’s quest to stop abuse is a noble one, she never quite emerges as a three-dimensional character; indeed, her only distinguishing qualities are her childhood trauma and her saintly devotion to her cause. The novel, at more than 700 pages, is also swollen with extraneous details and characters, such as Cindy’s kind, supportive boyfriend Frank, who is unceremoniously dumped when she decides to run for the Senate. Readers who persevere, however, will likely enjoy this story about child abuse and survival.
An overlong but effective indictment of the evils of violence against children.