Good story but not appropriate for church library.
April 30, 2013
Age: Over 65
I am the church librarian and do all the buying of books for the library. This story is completely believable in today's society but not appropriate to go into a church library because of some of the details given in the story. Otherwise, it is a good book.
I'm not particularly a fiction buff, but because of the subject matter being presented (effects of repressed/forgotten childhood sexual abuse), I was interested to see how it might be woven into the story, and what could be learned from this portrayal. It did not disappoint, and was believable as well as tastefully accomplished. The authors have expertise in their fields, and I think they did a good and sympathetic job with a topic that is unfamiliar to many, myself included. It presented, as part of the evolving story line, many helpful and healthy psychological insights into how we can grow and move on in healing ways with our lives, in spite of difficulties we have faced and the unconscious ways we have been coping with difficult situations. It was a good book about discovering good things, in the face of problems. I loved the title! And the story was a believable "romantic" novel as well!
"Love Me Back to Life" is Christian general fiction about a woman who suffered sexual abuse as a child. The story was about how this abuse caused Mallory to react to her husband in ways that caused tension in her marriage, a breakdown were she remembered the repressed memory of the abuse, and her journey to healing assisted by a Christian therapist.
The authors used vivid details that brought the various settings and the children alive in my imagination. However, in the first half (which was the lead-up to Mallory's breakdown), all the scenes were of Mallory fighting with someone at her home or in an extended family setting. It felt like she had no life beyond the fighting. Mallory's and Jake's inner thoughts also came across as simplistic, somehow...not fully fleshed out. The two characters were so self-righteous. Nothing was their own fault (even in their inner thoughts), so I had a hard time liking them though I did feel sympathetic.
In the second half, Mallory's recovery was very interesting and drew me into the story. However, some things happened very abruptly (from the reader perspective) since time would pass and we missed some of the struggles. For example, we knew she had a shopping addiction (which played a major role in the marital discord). Suddenly, near the end, we find out she's dealt with and conquered this addiction without us getting to see her confront and overcome it.
There was a lot of God-talk in the novel. Though Christian, Mallory initially avoided praying and later simply told God what she wanted. However, at the very end, she finally talked with God (instead of at him), listened, and showed her reliance on God in her actions instead of just her words.
There was a minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. There was no graphic sex. I think I would have enjoyed this novel more if the first half had been condensed and more time spent on Mallory's struggle for healing since I found the writing more engaging in that part. However, if you've been abused as a child and it's affected your marriage, you may be engaged by the characters from the start.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Mallory Carlisle's life is already a mess when she starts to have the nightmares. She and her husband are drifting further apart as he works longer hours and makes more business trips, she's racking up credit card debts and her extended family is just as dysfunctional as ever. But when Mallory starts having disturbing dreams that cause her to act weirdly around her loved ones, she begins to wonder whether they're linked to something that she actually experienced. When a news story causes her to have a panic attack at a Bible study meeting, her friends urge her to see a therapist to understand what's really going on in her life. Slowly, Mallory comes to terms with the childhood memories that she'd suppressed, and begins to put her trust in God for healing and release from the hurt she's been carrying. Only through God can she put her life, her marriage and her family back on track.
This was a truly devastating story. I had to put it down at times and read something else as Mallory's story simply broke my heart. While I don't have any first-hand experience in dealing with childhood abuse, I felt that the authors really captured Mallory's hurt and pain. The road to recovery was difficult, but I admired her bravery and enjoyed watching her pull her life back together and come to terms with the changes she needed to make.
I would have to say that I never really warmed to Mallory's husband, Jake. They were suffering from marital difficulties at the start of the book, and having never seen them happy together, it was difficult to like him. Although I could sympathise with the confusion he felt at Mallory pushing him away as she fell deeper into her emotional turmoil, I sometimes felt like he didn't make enough effort. Jake did, thankfully, redeem himself and realise that he had contributed to the family problems, but I wish I'd had more of a chance to read about "changed" Jake to truly witness his transformation of character.
I was impressed with the authors' choice to tackle such a difficult subject. While some may consider Christian Fiction to be full of romance, happy endings and fluffy bunnies, the market can feature some pretty taboo topics. Missy and Susan definitely deserve credit for being brave enough to bring to light the fact that childhood abuse can affect even the most pious of Christians, and for showing how both therapy and God's love can help victims to overcome their hurts. However, I do wish that the authors had stuck with the original issues - abuse, marital problems and credit card debt. They also threw in several other problems, either as events in the novel or in mentions to past experiences, including a childhood death, a miscarriage, a sudden illness, and the death of a grandparent. There was actually one point where I found myself thinking, "Really? Could these characters have any more to deal with?" I'm sure that the authors could write wonderful novels on these other subjects, but in this case they felt hastily thrown together. As a result of featuring so many issues in one novel, some of them were never truly concluded and they sometimes overshadowed the wider issue of Mallory's abuse.
I would like to caution that this is very definitely a Christian novel. While some inspirational books merely feature a few Bible verses and references to praying and attending church, this isn't one of them. Mallory frequently seeks God's guidance, meets up with her pastor's wife and fellow Church members to discuss her difficulties and is counselled by a Christian therapist. I lost count of the number of Bible verses that she mentioned in the diary entries at the end of each chapter. This was a new experience for me as I hadn't previously read a book so focused on a character's spiritual journey, or read about Christian counselling. I felt that this was a realistic novel about a woman reaching out to God for help in her time of need, but it probably isn't one to pass on to non-Christian friends.
Boldly tackling topics that are often hidden away in Christian circles, Love Me Back to Life is a heart-breaking tale of God's healing power and love. While I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the many difficulties that Mallory found herself pitted against, I definitely think that Missy Horsfall and Susan Stevens deserve credit for writing such an honest and realistic account of one woman's struggle to overcome childhood abuse.
Many thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.