A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Fiction, or Truth?

I’ve been a little slack on commenting on friends’ sites the last couple of days. Why? Because I’ve had my nose stuck in a book. My preferred method of reading fiction is total immersion. I’ll surface for food and bathroom breaks – or in my current state of family affairs, for meals, snacks, diaper changes, and dispute mediation. Other than that, I live in the world created by black ink on white paper.

This weekend I read Anna Quindlen’s novel, Black and Blue. I have been a long-time fan of her columns, but this is my first venture into her fiction writing. She’s good at that, too, as I somehow knew she would be. Even so, I found this novel quite unsettling. It stirred up all-too familiar emotions that I’ve spent years trying to forget.

Black and Blue is about an abused wife and her son who escape to begin a new life. As they become established, even comfortable in their new life, she knows (and you, the reader know) that somehow, sometime she will be found again. That’s all I’ll say about the plot. If you haven’t read it and want to, then I don’t want to spoil it for you.

It is a painful book. The author deals honestly with the abuse without being graphic. Still, you feel her hurt. You feel her shame. You feel her fear.

And it is all too familiar.

I was not physically abused by my former husband. The closest he came was one push and one time when he grabbed my arm with too much force. No bruises. Just red marks and intimidation. There was a hole in the wall, though, and a door that he jerked from the hinges. I’ll never forget how his favorite way to end an argument was to clean his guns. There was definite verbal and emotional abuse. That kind of abuse doesn’t leave visible marks, but the scars often take as long, if not longer to heal as the physical ones. There were accusations. He sometimes followed me, or had one of his siblings to follow me. He would hide my keys, or take my jewelry, or steal my journal and make copies of it. (That, somehow, was the ultimate betrayal. It was years before I felt comfortable writing anything personal.) By the time I finally left he had just about convinced me that I was useless, worthless, hopeless, value-less, and ignorant.

If you want to know how it felt, then read about Fran. Take away the physical abuse and everything else is the same. It was painful to read. It was even more painful to live.

I am just a few weeks away from the nine year anniversary of my divorce being finalized. It’s been almost eleven years since I left. You wouldn’t think that after that long stretch of time an author’s words of fiction could draw all those old emotions back to the surface. I actually dread going to sleep tonight for fear of what the dreams may be.

Quindlen did not tie up all the loose ends neatly by the end of her novel. She’s a smart enough woman to know how contrived that would be. There is nothing neat about abuse or about divorce, especially where children are involved. Like Fran, I know that I will never really be ‘done’ with him. Like her, I’m always watching for the other shoe to drop, wondering what I can do to divert another confrontation and how best to protect myself and Anna.

Good grief. It’s just a novel, right? It shouldn’t bother me so much, should it? Isn’t it just fiction?

Don’t I wish.


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3 thoughts on “Fiction, or Truth?

  1. Great post although I’m sad that you had years of misery with your former spouse. Thanks for an honest account of how Quindlen’s books impacts you. I know how it is to read a book and feel the things you describe surfacing. There was a book several years ago about a UMC clergywoman’s first years of ministry. The book gave me nightmares. Everyone else thought it was a great book. I can’t re-read it and think I gave the book away. Thanks again.

  2. St. C, I know that book. I put it down feeling icky.Preacher Mom, Quindlen really knows how to evoke our difficult emotions. One True Thing, about a mother and daughter, was painful for me to read.I also am so sorry to hear what it was like to be in your marriage, although I had a sense of it before. (((Preacher Mom)))

  3. I am so sorry you had this kind of experience with someone who’d pledged to love and care for you. I think that’s one of the worst parts–the betrayal of the vows and the psychological effects of that.It is not at all silly for books to have this kind of effect. I have noticed that in 95% of the novels I’ve picked up in the last 6 months, someone in the book either has cancer or dies of cancer, and usually breast cancer. I have cried through nearly every book I’ve read. ugh.I pray that your healing process will continue and that grace will indeed be sufficient.

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