A mother’s debut account of abducting her child to save him from his abusive father.
In 1973, at the height of the feminist movement, Murphy met Guy Johnson, the son of famed author Maya Angelou, through her best friend, Mary. Soon, all three of them engaged in an untraditional love triangle, living in relative harmony and eking out a meager existence with marginal bouts of employment and creative ingenuity. In the early chapters, Murphy, in succinct, articulate prose, relates her tumultuous relationship with Johnson. She initially dismissed his abrasive personality as challenging but soon realized that he had quite a sadistic streak. When Murphy became pregnant, she hoped that Johnson’s attitude toward her would soften, but it was not to be—indeed, as her pregnancy progressed, Johnson’s anger toward her only increased. The author adeptly recounts the intense, fearful incidents that she endured just before her son Colin was born. Johnson, she writes, angrily proclaimed that Murphy was unfit to raise their child, and eventually the verbal abuse turned physical, forcing her to leave their home and seek a divorce. She writes of finding herself helpless against Johnson’s attempts to remove her son from her life completely, thanks to Johnson’s ties to the community and his mother’s fame and abundant finances. After Johnson badly beat her and she lost her court battles, she took her son and went into hiding for four years with the aid of her friends and four sisters. During her years underground, Murphy learned a lot about herself and, through her work with women’s shelters and other programs, helped other abused women. After a former friend turned her in, she reexamined her initial motives and feelings that caused her to run, and, through a 12-step program, came to terms with many of her personal issues and firmly held convictions, which allowed her to finally begin healing. Throughout this engaging memoir, she deftly tells her life story—from her abusive childhood to her seemingly selfless act of saving her son—with meticulous attention to detail (“I flipped [my Social Security card] into the fire and dropped my driver’s license on top of it. A shock ran through me as I watched them curl and darken and burn.”).
A thoughtful and thought-provoking memoir.