He Beat Past My Skin by Jessica Green

He Beat Past My Skin

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In Green’s debut novel, a group of women come together to share tales of the abuse they’ve endured.

Psychologist and family counseling specialist Angela Morrison agrees to proctor a local church’s women’s meeting. The four women she meets on the snowy day of the first gathering are all survivors of one kind of abuse or another: Candace Carter has been trapped by the men in her life in a cycle of prostitution; Ernestine Johnson has lived for 25 years with an abusive man whose words sometimes hurt worse than his fists; Toni Brown, who was taken from a life on the streets by a stranger who imprisoned and raped her, now desires vengeance; and Anita Harrison, a pastor’s wife, has emotional scars from maintaining a seemingly perfect outward poise despite her husband’s cruelty. One by one, they tell their stories and gradually open up to one another and to Dr. Morrison, despite initial misgivings and a good deal of shame about being victims. The tone of the revelations is almost brusquely straightforward, and despite taking place in a church, these aren’t prayer meetings; as one character wryly observes, “We create havoc in our lives, and then we expect God to perform a miracle to repair the damages.” Green relates these horrifying tales in a similarly unadorned way and in a narrative voice that’s free of both sensationalism and self-pity. Toni, in particular, has suffered nightmarish ordeals, but readers’ sympathies are never tainted by disbelief; likewise, Anita, the novel’s strongest and most memorable character, refreshingly rises above the easy literary stereotypes associated with preachers’ wives. This is thoughtful, hard-hitting stuff, and the plot’s gradual climb to personal resolution for even its most wounded characters feels organic and unforced.

A harrowing but ultimately uplifting fictional collection of survivors’ stories from the front lines of domestic violence.

Pub Date: May 10th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4502-8150-8
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016