A memoir of a mother’s tragic loss offers insight into the everyday terrors of domestic abuse.
In 1989, Walls writes, her ex-partner, Bernon Howery, set fire to her home while her four children were sleeping upstairs, and he was convicted in 1991 of four counts of murder. Over the course of her memoir, Walls relates the early days of her relationship with Howery, the escalation in abuse, and her many attempts to rid herself of him. One of the greatest strengths of Walls’ storytelling is her focus on the everyday things that can make escaping abuse incredibly difficult. For example, she writes of her fierce desire to provide for her children and how she had to negotiate a series of compromises when faced with her young son’s sickle cell anemia. She tells of fearing for her own life and taking out life insurance in order to provide for her children in the event that “he murdered me.” Overall, Walls’ story is a moving one. However, the memoir might have benefited from more attention to its structure. The chronological framework does provide readers with a sense of the author’s day-to-day struggles, but it might have been more sharply focused by concentrating on a handful of representative events, instead. Walls’ letters to her children and her own diary entries in the book’s latter half provide valuable emotional insight. However, they might have been more compelling if they were interspersed throughout the narrative. The book’s final chapters offer concrete guidance on dealing with stalking and domestic abuse, which is certainly valuable, but this information could have worked better as a separate publication, providing a clearer distinction between Walls’ memories and advice.
An important story of a mother’s loss and the challenges of abuse somewhat hampered by structural issues.