Wednesday, May 20, 2009

But Inside I'm Screaming

It's probably not a good sign that I strongly identified with the main character of this novel, considering she's in a loony bin. Hopefully that's just a testament to Elizabeth Flock's writing ability. I think that connection with the main character is strong because although you know something was wrong enough to send her to a mental institution, you don't know what it was for a long time and she just seems pretty normal. All you do know is that she had a high-powered TV news reporter position and she just cracked. What makes her different from her crazy asylum mates is her ability to choose to get better. That's what the book boils down to and is why I enjoyed it so much. As long as we still have the mental ability to choose how to react, we have something to live for. We may not be able to control our circumstances or other people's actions, but we do control our reactions and how we deal with those people or situations.

Slight spoiler: This isn't really a huge spoiler, but I wanted to put the warning there because I think I would have viewed the book differently going in if I had known this. I have absolutely zero empathy for women in abusive situations. After something happens for the first time, at most a second time, it should never happen again. I absolutely cannot understand how someone could choose to stay in such a situation and it's hard to have sympathy for someone who chooses to do so. Obviously there are times where it's harder to leave, like in Anna Quindlen's Black and Blue where the husband is a well respected cop and no one would believe her story and he would be able to hunt her down easily, or if you've got kids and no education or money you might try to stick it out, but the vast majority of the time there's no excuse. In this book, you see how an educated, intelligent woman might fall victim. First there's an accident, then another. Then there's the subtle verbal abuse making you feel like you don't deserve anything good. By the time the real physical abuse starts, the woman is so psychologically confused that she hates herself and feels she deserves it. I still have little sympathy for anyone in that situation who doesn't do something about it, but this book did give me a better understanding of why someone might stay in such a situation.

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