Journalist Latus’s straight-shooting memoir about dutiful Catholic sisters growing up in 1970s Michigan dilates into a haunting story of abuse at the hands of the men in their lives.
In 2002, the author picked up the phone to learn that her younger sister was missing and the prime suspect was Amy’s freeloading ex-con boyfriend. In the ensuing chapters about the sisters’ childhood and youth, Latus attempts to figure what went wrong in the relationships both women endured with the men they loved. Clues begin to center around their father, an insurance salesman who is both seductive and hypercritical. On the one hand, when Janine is a girl, he routinely tells her how flat-chested she is, what a stupid laugh she has. On the other, he “feels her up” with his eyes and praises her sexy legs. Her mother remains passive while the girls’ Catholic religious teaching hammers home the message that women are seductresses and men have uncontrollable urges. Obviously, the only way for someone as pathetic as Janine to get men’s approval is by sleeping with them; she grows into a rebellious, fairly promiscuous, academic dilettante. Janine graduates and marries her lover (after he gets a divorce). Stuck at home, much younger Amy marries early, gains weight and lets her education languish. But she eventually gets a divorce, builds a career as a pricing analyst and starts over. Then she meets a dangerous, two-timing criminal who’s obviously bad news—but he keeps telling Amy he loves her. Just as the author finds the courage to turn around her life, Amy dies. And Dad’s still clueless, telling suggestive stories about his daughter at the memorial service. Latus writes here to save the lives of women like her sister and herself, so desperate for love that they’ll pay any price for it.
An honest, unsparing look at the deadly erosion of self-worth.