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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Escaping the Shadows by Lisa J. Peck

Escaping the Shadows by Lisa J. Peck is an LDS novel about spousal abuse that highlights the viscous and damaging chains it can wrap around someone's life.

It's told in a somewhat unusual format. I've seen it before in national chick lit books, but this is the only LDS book I know of that is written this way. I could be wrong, though. If you of another book written in this format, let me know. I'd be curious to read it.

What's so unusual about it? Escaping the Shadows is written entirely as emails. Unlike the national titles I've read, you only ever get the main characters perspective. From the beginning of the book, you follow Charlene through her abusive marriage as she writes about it in emails. These emails are written to friends and sometimes her husband. She talks about her reasoning and justifications, what she thinks about what is happening to her, things she is learning from her therapist, and things she is learning about herself. You follow Charlene through her first recognitions that no matter how you paint it, her marriage isn’t healthy, through the tough decision to divorce her husband and on to trying to find a new life for herself and leave the old nightmares behind her. As anyone who has faced this type of situation can tell you, none of this is an easy task.

I can't say that I particularly cared for the email format of this book, I found myself too often drawn out of the story. That has been my experience with national titles of this format type as well. It has to be really well done to hold my interest. That being said, however, I can see where using this particular style would be useful. Even though I was frequently disengaged with the story, it was interesting to see the entire process not only from the abused woman's perspective, but also how she rationalizes and explains what is happening to someone else. All the important elements are there, you see all of the thought processes, but only as they would come out to another person, not true internal dialog if that makes sense. That is very useful because it gives the reader a set of parameters, key phrases, and other clues that someone you might know may be using to tell you about what is happening behind closed doors. It can help you anticipate what they might say and do as you offer a helping hand. So, from that stand point Escaping the Shadows holds true merit.

One of my other impulses about the content was that an abusive husband would not let her near a computer and would know exactly what she was doing on it. It felt almost unbelievable to me that she would have access to technology that he would not know how to “control”. Just another me thing since my husband is very techno-savvy and we live in such weird times that every parent really does need to know what is going on with that personal computer.

Escaping the Shadows is also available in a national version, Silent Cries, which does not contain the specific LDS references. From the peeks I’ve gotten at the inside of Silent Cries, I much prefer this version. It is told in actual story format and gives a clearer picture of what is going on while still teaching important lessons. But when I had the choice I took the LDS version because that viewpoint was important to me in understanding abuse. I trusted Lisa to include the same universal material in both titles and I wanted to specifically understand the Mormon element. It is world-shattering enough to be in an abusive relationship. I can not imagine doing so in a religion that focuses so heavily on forever families and honoring marriage covenants. I needed that perspective in the book I chose.

These titles, Escaping the Shadows and Silent Cries, could be important books for someone in need of answers and healing. It would be a nice suggestion for those in need. Both titles do contain a lot of practical and everyday information that women in abusive situations need to know about if they are struggling with trying to find answers and understand what options for escape they actually have. Regardless of the writing style, both books offer a source of hope and that’s important, so I keep a copy of Escaping the Shadows on my shelf and hope to add Silent Cries as well. You never know when it might be your friend, who needs to know the type of information you gained from reading Lisa’s titles.

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