“Why did you fight so hard against made-up monsters, but do nothing about the monsters in your own house?”
UPDATE: Warning – Do not read this book before bedtime because it’ll likely give you nightmares. I just woke from one. The impact of this book won’t go unnoticed on your subconscious.
I started this book from part two, knowing I wouldn’t be able to bear reading too much about her family and instead focusing on Westover’s journey to education.
Still, my mind is reeling from the minute I closed this book. It reiterates the scariest of questions: How do you help someone who refuses to receive help? Westover’s family legit scare me, even more so knowing they’re somewhere out there. I felt like I was reading a thriller, but it’s worse because it’s real life.
I can’t stop thinking about only one thing: Get Emily out of there and her two kids far away from Shane. Help them! How is the police not breaking down their doors this very minute to save them knowing this book exists??? Why? Like, it felt wrong closing this book and just moving on. This isn’t just a story, this is someone’s real life.
“I half-wondered if I should return to the bathroom and climb through the mirror, then send out the other girl, the one who was sixteen. She could handle this, I thought. She would not be afraid, like I was. She would not be hurt, like I was. She was a thing of stone, with no fleshy tenderness.”
This is the scene that impacted me the most: when Tara was looking at her reflection in her old bathroom mirror about to face the hardest moment in her life. Her strength at that moment gave me strength.
“And here I was still, and here was the mirror. The same face, repeated in the same three panels. Except it wasn’t. This face was older, and floating above a soft cashmere sweater. But Dr. Kerry was right: it wasn’t the clothes that made this face, this woman, different. It was something behind her eyes, something in the set of her jaw—a hope or belief or conviction—that a life is not a thing unalterable. I don’t have a word for what it was I saw, but I suppose it was something like faith.”
Her ability to face Shawn with no one around her to support her emotionally shocked me. Sure, there were witnesses around, yet there was no support. If she can face him in an effort to give voice to her thoughts on his wrongdoings, I’ll always think back on this moment and draw strength from it.
If she can face that, my own fears pale in comparison. She showed me that there is no limit to what she can face. Still, it’s impossible taking that first step. It brought back to mind this quote I repeat in my mind from Watch Over Me:
“I need you to be brave,” he said. “I need you to face her, even though it hurts.”
It’s so tiring and exhausting being on edge around the people you should feel the most at home with.
The more I sat with the book these past days, the more certain passages kept resurfacing. Like:
“I am doing this with or without you. But without you, I will probably lose.”
“The wedding was in September. I arrived at the church full of anxious energy, as though I’d been sent through time from some disastrous future to this moment, when my actions still had weight and my thoughts, consequences. I didn’t know what I’d been sent to do, so I wrung my hands and chewed my cheeks, waiting for the crucial moment.”
Experiencing this feeling of seeing your present already from the future is terrifying. You have no idea how to save the future.
Whew. I had no idea I’d ever encounter a book to put into words what I’ve been avoiding. I’m still stuck in this phase:
“I tried to forget that night. For the first time in fifteen years, I closed my journal and put it away. Journaling is contemplative, and I didn’t want to contemplate anything.”
This isn’t something to be read lightly. You’ll leave it with a changed perspective on your own interactions and thoughts.
“But the memory of her saying it is gone: it is as if I wrote in order to forget.”
I feel like the movie version of this would hit as hard as Wild did. I really hope it gets opted for a movie adaptation.