A debut memoir offers a straightforward account of an emotionally abusive marriage.
Cyrulewski begins her book with a brief, intense scene: She can’t stop crying. She feels she’s a terrible mother and that her daughter would be better off without her. She wants to die. This glimpse of postpartum depression and anxiety may ring true for many new mothers, and pulls a reader into the story. But rather than examining this condition, the work explores a different subject. While Cyrulewski writes about her admittance to a psychiatric ward after the birth of Madelyne, her narrative focuses on her relationship with Tyler, her husband, then ex, and her daughter’s father. The author recounts how they met and quickly married. She also relates many early warning signs: Tyler, a recovering drug addict, used their wedding money to pay a debt she didn’t know he had. Verbally abusive almost from the start, he refused to help around the house and made her feel as if she were to blame for everything that went wrong. Yet he always apologized and she was swayed—to the point that she caved into his pleas to have a child just to save the marriage. Halfway through the account, Cyrulewski discovers that Tyler likely has narcissistic personality disorder, a condition causing a warped sense of self-importance, often leading to exploitative and abusive relationships. While this could be relevant for women trapped in similar circumstances, the volume unfortunately centers on Tyler. Though the author sheds some light on the insidious pattern of emotional abuse, she fails to delve deeply enough into her own mental state, or conversely, broaden her view beyond her own experience to show why she and many others stay in such relationships. Indeed, the second half of the volume, after Cyrulewski files for divorce, is so weighed down by copious details about Tyler’s actions (legal and otherwise) and failures as a parent that it reads less like a memoir and more like a defense brief. But throughout her ordeal, the author finds solace in Madelyne: “My daughter is my strength, my happiness, my love.”
While providing some insights into mental illness and abuse, this work becomes too mired in the maneuvers of a father to engage a broad readership.