Posted in change, grief, mental health, sexual assault

grief – you’re doing it wrong

they found my mother on december 5, 2016. i can’t say she died on that day because they don’t know when she actually died. she was found in bed, nothing out-of-place except for the fact that she was dead. apparently autopsies are extremely expensive and the coroner decided one wasn’t needed after talking to her doctor. part of me understands that, she had heart problems, was an insulin dependent diabetic, and had survived breast cancer twice. they decided it was either her heart or her blood sugar and that was that. i wish i knew for sure, though.

my mother and i had a difficult relationship. we didn’t speak for the last four months of her life because she wouldn’t respond to me. we lived in different cities and i texted and emailed and called. she never responded. she didn’t even call on my birthday. for the second year in a row. not that i celebrate my birthday but still, a phone call would have been nice. i called the day before thanksgiving and left her a message that i hoped she had a good holiday, was spending it with one of my sisters, and that i loved her. i called her a few days later and left a message that i was just checking in on her, hoped she was doing okay, and that i loved her. i called a few days later, same message.

my last call to her was on tuesday, december 6, 2016, a little after 2p.m. i was just so tired of the game. i’d say something wrong, or wouldn’t respond the way she wanted me to and she’d get mad and stop speaking to me for a period of time. she’d ignore my messages, emails, and texts then call, the sad and lonely parent who didn’t understand why i was doing this to her. tired of the game i left her a message and god help me i remember exactly what it said.

well, i’m supposing if you were dead or in the hospital jeanne or michelle would have called to tell me, so you’re probably just home listening to these messages. you’re not answering my texts. you’re not answering my emails. and you’re ignoring my calls. i’m done, i’m just done. if you decide you want to talk you know where i am.

an hour later my husband called and said my little sister was trying to get in touch with me. she couldn’t, so she had called the switchboard at his office and left a message on his voicemail. i called her back and just said, “she’s dead, isn’t she?” that’s how i found out that she had been found. i left her that message and she was already dead. she had been dead for days. alone. in her apartment.

i grew up in a very abusive household. she knew about it and didn’t do anything about the physical abuse or the sexual abuse. she was a victim of emotional abuse just like the rest of us. i went back and forth for a long time wondering what she knew and when she knew it. why she stayed. all the questions we normally ask. she acknowledged it once then took it back and said she had no idea what i was talking about. she also told me that one of my abusers had tried to rape her in our living room. but she still let me stay weekends with him. she still let him take me. i found out at her service that she knew and had discussed it with her sister at least once.

she was a narcissist, a hypochondriac, and played passive-aggressive games like nobody’s business. she knew what was happening and she stayed. she let it continue. she told me lies about my sister and told my sister lies about me so that she could keep each of us for herself. like our love was only valid if it was hers and hers alone. but. i have to balance all this negative with everything else.

she loved to read and instilled that love in me. my first trip to the library with her she let me check out books on her card because my card wouldn’t let me have more than two books at a time. she never went anywhere without a book and taught me to do the same. she didn’t refuse me books, she looked at what i wanted to read and asked me why i wanted to read it. if i could cogently explain why, i could check it out (or she would if necessary). there were books all over our house and we had a whole encyclopedia set which was a big deal because it was expensive but it was awesome.

one year there wasn’t money for christmas presents so she had a friend who knew calligraphy make cards that presented each us with a “day with mom”. we could cash it in whenever we wanted and have a day alone with her, doing whatever we wanted. we went to the library, had lunch at home (grilled cheese sandwiches – she always put two slices of cheese on them which was a big deal because our cheese was a giant block of that government cheese, and hot chocolate made with milk not water), and spent the rest of the day reading. i still have my card in a desk drawer, she never actually made me turn it in.

when john quit his job and spent two years on the couch, drinking diet coke, eating m&ms, and smoking, she worked three jobs so that the heat and electric would stay on, they wouldn’t take the house, and all the other things that adults needed to pay got paid. the times there wasn’t a car she took the bus to and from work. when she worked nights i would meet her at the bus stop so she didn’t have to walk home alone. i had to sneak out but it was worth it.

somehow, i have to find a way to balance these two diametrically opposed views of my mother. i know that times were different when i was a child. none of the doctors reported the multiple times i was in the e.r. with pelvic inflammatory disease. none of them questioned why a 9-year-old had p.i.d. in the first place. none of them wondered how a 12-year-old ended up with lesions adhering her uterus to her bowel. there weren’t any mandatory reporting laws in the 70’s and 80’s or, if there were, the doctors just didn’t follow them. in high school i found out, after yet another exploratory laparoscopy, that i couldn’t have children because of the damage to my uterus but nobody asked any questions. nobody looked at my medical history and said, “hmmm. maybe there’s something bad going on here.” or maybe they did and just didn’t care. i don’t know.

but. i still have to balance my views of my mother. the questions i always thought i would have time to ask i can’t ask and now i’m out of time. i can’t ask why she married him. i can’t ask why she stayed. i can’t ask why she didn’t do anything. i can’t ask …

i haven’t cried.
i’m having nightmares.
i left that goddamn message and she was already dead.
she’d been dead.
alone in her apartment, tucked into bed like a goddamn fairy princess waiting for her prince to kiss her awake.
you could still smell the decay that saturday when i was there with my aunt while she was looking through papers.
i have to balance my views of my mother.
i don’t know how to do that.

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – all our wrong todays by elan mastai

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via penguin group/dutton in exchange for an honest review.

imagine that the world that is only is because the world as it was supposed to be changed as the result of one man’s decision to act. confusing isn’t it? the world that is isn’t supposed to be, only you don’t know that because you’re in the world that is. tom barren knows, though, because he made the decision that changed everything.

all our wrong todays is a sad, funny, honest, and lyrical look at the perils of time travel and what the term “alternate reality” really means. it combines complex science with beautifully heartbreaking memories of a life remembered but never lived. in tom barren, elan mastai has created a character who is relatable, compelling, and semi-tragic. even while yelling at him to not be so stupid, you can’t help but hope he can make it work.

all our wrong todays is a brilliant debut that masterfully weaves the present, the past, a new present, and another possible new present into a coherent whole without sacrificing character development or neglecting the overarching truth that in the end we all  have to decide what version of ourselves we want to be.

four out of five stars

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – the girl before by j.p. delaney

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via ballantine books in exchange for an honest review.

the girl before is described as a thriller but it is actually an incredible study of the choices we make to protect ourselves after. after tragedy. after trauma. after horrific mistakes. we get to watch the choices two women, emma and jane, make as they try to move on after. we also get to see what came before the attempt at after and it’s tempting to judge the decisions, but we can’t. we weren’t there, right? well, maybe we actually can because there is such a thing as reality. there is accountability, or there should be.

j.p. delaney created two amazing women in the girl before. all of the characters are good but emma and jane are so nuanced, so complex, so very human that they draw you into their respective stories. even if you don’t actually like the character, you know you’re in her world when it’s 3:00 a.m. and you’re saying “oh honey, no” because that was such a stupid choice. how could she not see that that was a stupid choice?

in the past, i’ve found point-of-view narration tricky but delaney makes great use of it and switches between the two voices effortlessly, leaving no confusion. overall, the girl before was a great read, an excellent thriller with a mystery that i wasn’t able to figure out until the end but it was the psychological side of the story that kept me enthralled.

four out of five stars

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – a time of torment by john connolly

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via atria books in exchange for an honest review.

this is the first book i’ve read by john connolly. it sat on my to be read shelf for several months because i knew it was part of a series and wasn’t sure i was ready to get attached to a long-lived character. sometimes, walking in on a character with a well-developed back story seems overwhelming and just the idea of trying to catch up is daunting. i was lucky because connolly made it easy in a time of torment. there’s obviously A LOT i missed by coming into the series in the 14th book but i didn’t feel as behind as i could have. connolly presented the highlights of charlie parker’s life that were relevant to this point but didn’t overwhelm with superfluous details. in addition to making it easy to relate to a character i was meeting far after his premiere, connolly’s other characters were well written and, given the setting, realistic.

it is important for me to note that connolly did present the physical abuse and repeated sexual assault of two characters. i didn’t feel at any time that he was doing it simply as a plot point. he handled it tactfully, wrote about it without providing details, and presented it as the horror that it was regardless of the reasoning used by the men committing the crimes.

overall, i enjoyed a time of torment and it was a good way to meet charlie parker.

three out of five stars

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – two days gone by randall silvis

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via sourcebooks landmark in exchange for an honest review.

a wife and three children were brutally murdered. the only suspect is the small town’s most beloved resident. the detective in charge of the case not only knows the suspect, he has a great respect for him and considers him a friend. that could be considered standard mystery fare, right? in randall silvis‘ hands, though, it becomes a taut and nuanced thriller with secrets that don’t explode until the end.

i opened two days gone thinking i would read a few chapters then go to sleep. five hours later, having gotten completely caught up in not only the story but in the interplay between the characters and the ongoing discovery of their connections to each other, i finished the book. the characters were complex and the story danced from one to the next with no mistakes or missteps. there were no trick misleads here, nothing pastiche, nothing common, just texture and pain and the inevitability of life.

four out of five stars

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – the spirit chaser by kat mayor

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

second disclaimer – i am a genre snob and i absolutely admit that. i’m the kind of person who tells friends that i can’t go down the romance aisle in bookstores because i can feel my iq dropping. they flip me the bird, i wander off to the horror section or the thriller section or whatever, we go on with our book lives. had i actually paid attention to the genre description of this book when it was sent to me, i would never have selected it because, hello, romance.

that said.

the spirit chaser is a good supernatural thriller. i was interested immediately in the general premise (ghost hunters get their collective asses handed to them by ghosts) and wanted to see how the years of interfering in the lives (after-lives? non-lives?) of paranormal entities was going to finally catch up to the characters. kat mayor‘s (who is also k.m. montemayor) characters are generally well developed and we are given just enough information about their backgrounds to really relate to the human drama that makes the supernatural drama that much more perilous.

what i was less interested in was the “romance” side of the story, not just between the human characters but between the human and the demon who wants to possess him. who decided that the combination of sex and supernatural peril was sexy? there’s really nothing sexy about a demon raping someone – i use that word specifically, knowing how loaded it is, because who would ever consciously submit to sex with a demon. who would submit to sex with a ghost, even?

there are some uneven parts in the execution of the story. a good example is when the story veers from a discussion of serious theological doctrine to having a character call the demon as a “beeyotch”. there are several of these types of startling transitions and not only do they ring false, they pulled me completely out of the story each time. to balance that, however, the ending absolutely killed me and overall i’m glad i had the chance to read the story.

three out of five stars

Posted in book review, books

a turtle’s eye view – chills by mary sangiovanni

disclaimer – i received a copy of this book via lyrical underground in exchange for an honest review.

there’s something very soothing about a snow storm – the fall of the snow, the blowing of the wind, the shine of the lights. it’s all so calming when you’re inside with a book and a blanket. unless you’re in colby, connecticut, during this odd spring snow storm. then it not only feels malevolent, it is actually capable of murder with a little help from the worshippers who are trying to invite a few brutally evil and ancient gods to colby.

chills wastes no time getting to the point. there are monsters, there is violence, and there is brutal death. mary sangiovanni describes all of this in almost loving detail and she leaves nowhere for readers to hide and almost no air for them to breathe. i enjoy this in your face writing style in horror novels occasionally, but in this case the dedication to the monsters and the mayhem comes at the expense of character development. i was really captivated by kathy ryan, the occult expert called in to assist on the case, and though there are some details about her background and her relationship with the colby detective assigned to the case, her character suffers from a lack of development as the focus stays on the literal hell making its home in colby.

chills is a fast read but not for the faint of heart. if you’re looking for in-depth character development, this isn’t your read but if you’re looking for solid horror, descriptive violence, and some great criminal procedure details you’re in the right place.

three out of four stars.