REVIEW: THE NEXT WIFE, BY LIZ LAWLER

My husband is everything I ever dreamed of. A handsome, successful doctor who swept me off my feet.

Our new life together is perfect.

He’s perfect.

But am I good enough for him? I never seem to get anything right. And I’m starting to feel a little afraid of the man I married.

He’s taken away my bank card and my phone. I don’t know what to think or what to do. I gave up everything for him and now I’m trapped.

Then a stranger comes to our door. She tells me that I can’t trust my husband.

That I should ask him what happened to his first wife.

 

It did not take long to hate Daniel, the husband in The Next Wife. I felt a connection to Tess and also enjoyed the older woman, Martha, who lived nearby and tried to warn Tess about her husband.

As Daniel’s controlling behavior intensified, I kept hoping for an escape for Tess. But just when I thought there might be a way out for her, the obstacles grew until she was under his total control.

What had happened before Tess entered Daniel’s life? Was there a first wife? Did she come to some terrible end? It was not hard to imagine the cruelty that Daniel might have exacted on her, as he has turned dark in his current marriage, and so early into the union.

I did wonder about how he developed into this horrific person, and how others could still see his charm, but I have also known characters just like him and had no reason to question how they got that way. Most seem to have learned their evil in childhood, either as a victim or as an aberration.

As the story unfolded, I was shocked by the unexpected twists and turns, and couldn’t stop turning the pages. A great read that earned 4.5 stars.

***

Tuesday Sparks: Intros/Teasers – “Little Mercies”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today I am featuring a book that will go down as another favorite.  I just finished it today, and my review is HERE.

 

Little Mercies, by Heather Gudenkauf, is a ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force that reveals how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

 

 

 

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Intro:  When people find out what I do for a living their first question is always about the most horrendous case of child abuse I’ve encountered.  I can be at a backyard barbecue or at a New Year’s Eve party or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, or my husband’s baseball game.  You must see so much, they say, shaking their heads, lips pursed in something like empathy, like I was the one who might have endured the beatings, the burns, the torrents of hateful words.  Of course I don’t share any details about my clients or their families.  So much has been stripped from the children that stagger in and out of my orbit; the very least I can do is honor their privacy.  Come on, people urge, tell me.  It’s bad, isn’t it?  Like I’m dangling some salacious gossip in front of them.  Like I’m keeping mum because I don’t want to offend their tender ears, upset their perfectly ordered worlds where all children are touched with gentle hands, spoken to with loving words and tucked warmly into beds with full stomachs.

***

Teaser:  Tears well in my mother’s eyes and she grasps both of my hands in her, “I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have our moments.  We all have those times when we turn our backs, close our eyes, become unguarded.” (53%).

***

Amazon Description:  Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

***

I could relate to this story on so many levels:  but mostly as a parent and as a retired social worker.  Nothing ignites passion in me more quickly than stories of child abuse and neglect.  But this story reminds me that none of us are exempt from mistakes…or the “unguarded moments” that can define our lives.  And all of us can occasionally use those “little mercies” handed out in unexpected places.

Would you keep reading?  I know some turn away from the horrific stories, but for those who don’t, you might find yourself fully engaged.

***

ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO REDEMPTION — A REVIEW

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In a life that, in many ways, mirrored that of a star named Marilyn Monroe, the author of RagDoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe has been able to move beyond the pain, uncertainty, and abuse of her past to a life of redemption.

Her story shows the reader the nightmare of a childhood tainted by her illegitimacy and her quest to find love and acceptance. Poverty and abuse by the men who married her mother would turn her life into a nightmare. Longing to escape, she grasped the first man who seemed to be her Prince. The fact that he was Joe DiMaggio’s son and had his own obsession with Marilyn was not readily apparent.

As we read about the struggles of a young woman who, despite her efforts to escape pain and disappointment, had found another world of hurt in this marriage, we also see that her persistence will ultimately be her saving grace.

Through her failed marriages, her alcoholism, and her desperate attempts to find independence and redemption, at some point there is a small glimmer of hope that shines through when she encounters some special people along the way. Those who reinforce her determination and show her another way. Another perspective.

Now the author has found her redemption, and the journey toward it is a captivating read. Four stars.

***

I purchased this book in May 2012, so my review will satisfy one of the tasks for the Mt. TBR Challenge 2013.

HOW ARE FAMILY CONNECTIONS CREATED? — A REVIEW

A family is created in many ways and takes many forms.

Marnie, age 15, and her younger sister Nelly, 12, have been neglected and abused their whole lives. Their circumstances seem inescapable, and seemingly nothing can save them.

But then something happens to change their lives, beginning with the death of their father, followed soon after by their mother’s death. And even when the girls bury them in the backyard, how they died is only revealed in bits and pieces throughout the story; the secret is one the girls plan to keep forever, even as the obstacles arise and the threat of exposure hovers nearby. Exposure would mean the descent of the social workers who could separate the sisters and defeat their efforts to create their own family.

Will their neighbor Lenny’s support keep the girls on an even keel indefinitely? What does the sudden appearance of a never-before known maternal grandfather mean for their fledgling little family? What will ultimately bring the secrets to light and turn the forming connections inside out?

Every struggle tests the bonds between the sisters, but in the end, their connections trump the efforts of the outsiders who threaten them. A beautiful testament to the idea of family, no matter what form it takes, The Death of Bees: A Novel is unforgettable. Four stars.