I knew there was a reason why I usually stay away from current fiction. I have a tendency of choosing books that end up being really depressing and sad. Sure, the writer tries to put in a happy ending, but the fact that the character has to suffer so much to get that bit of happiness makes me sad...
Okay, I just finished reading Breaking TWIG by Deborah Epperson. It looks like this is her only published book from what I was able to pull up on Amazon. If it is, then I am really impressed. But I do have one question... why such a sad book?
So we start off with a young teenager (I think she was 13) in the year 1963 who is raped by her new stepbrother. Her mother had only been remarried for a little while when this happened. Her mother didn't believe her - and we find out all kinds of things about how horrible this woman is after that.
Becky is our main character who is not only small for her age, but defenseless against her bully of a mother. If it were not for her step father putting himself in the middle, her mother would have killer her on more than one occasion. It was really hard reading about the beatings that Helen, Becky's mom, gave her because I just can't read about when a kid suffers. Heck, that's why I couldn't get through the Hunger Games that everyone is going all crazy about! If there is too much suffering, I can't read it and that's just how it is.
So Becky's hero comes in the form of her step father, who sends his son away and piles on more stress onto himself in order to keep Helen from giving Becky more beatings. Since he can't be home all the time, Helen still ends up beating Becky to the point where she breaks ribs, gives her a concussion and a gash on her forehead that needs multiple stitches.
Our story starts getting kind of twisted at this point... to the point where I'm not really sure I can tell you about it any more than I already did. The best thing to do is to read the book yourself. If you can read the Hunger Games, this will be a piece of cake. At least Becky grows up a bit more and is no longer a defenseless little kid - though she still needed some protection - which the good step father, Frank, is there to provide.
Now the reason I say that I'm impressed if this book is the first for this writer is because she hasn't made so many of the mistakes that I've seen in other debut books. This had a good story that flowed well. The characters seemed very real - and she used all five senses! - to make them more real. The only one that she could have used a bit more in the book was the sense of taste... especially when Becky and her mom try their hands at building a catering business later on in the book. But eyes, ear, nose and touch were all there and I'm happy that she put that kind of thought into doing that.
Even if the story was sad and at parts hard for me to read, there were good breaks and logical conclusions to the story. I don't know the actual technical term that writers use to describe this... I'm just doing what I can. I've read books where sometimes certain parts of the story, just to force the rest of the story to work, makes absolutely no sense at all and is not very realistic. It make me wonder why a character is doing something so unlike them... then as I keep reading, it makes sense what the writer is trying to do, but didn't achieve it very well. I saw this in almost every book that I read from those trashy romance series... oh, what where they called? Sniglets? Hallmark? Oh, whatever they were called, the few that I read were written really bad.
I'm not sure if this book would be considered a romance. Though there is a very sweet and tender romance story in there, I would probably not recommend this book to any romance novel fan that I know of because of the dynamics between the two romantic characters. Frank becomes more than a step father to Becky after a while. Even when his marriage to Helen has been dead, Frank puts all the energy he can to protect Becky from her mother. They fall in love and it's a really sweet story but anyone that has a problem with that step-father-turned-lover part of the story may have a problem with this. When it comes to love and romance, I don't think there is much that is out there that can shock me. I've already read probably the novel that most claims to be the most shocking ever written - Fifty Shades of Grey, and it didn't shock me at all.
What I liked about the story as well, was reading how Becky developed her inner strength - even if she didn't realize that it was there until her beloved Frank was gone. She use a therapy that I've been readying about (yes, I did end up doing some research about therapies after reading the Fifty Shades books) and have been practicing for years. It's writing a journal... yes, as simple as that.
I found out how therapeutic writing in a journal was when I was a freshman in college and suffering from my first broken heart. I used to write letters to that the person who broke my heart, telling him how I was suffering and how mad I was at him... and even if it didn't take the ache away, it did help me get over him. Would I have gotten over him without the letters? Probably, but I don't know how 'over him' I would have been when I started dating my husband to be. I learned a lot about myself in those letters and when those letters went away, so did all of those hurt feelings. Sure, I think about him everyone once in a great while, wonder if he ever married, had any kids or what he did for a job... but they are just curious wonderings that I don't care if I ever find answers to.
Another therapy that Frank help Becky with was in planning their futures. They talked about what they would do and how they would get there. It wasn't described in total detail, but this is what I liked about the writer as well... she left certain parts of the story to our imaginations. What exactly did they talk about when planning the next expansion of the store that they owned? Some writers just like to dwell on the parts that are not that important to the rest of the story, but sometimes gives us readers a little food for thought. As I put the book down at night, I'd think about these kind of things - what Becky and Frank would have been planning - before I would fall asleep.
This is another therapy that I read about that I also used many years ago - but I called it my dream board. :-) This consisted of board with exactly what it is called: your dreams. Everyone has their own way of making a dream board - some like using pictures and making a collage, others may make lists. I liked to use the typical brainstorming method - start with your main goal in the middle, then the steps that it will take in order to make that goal happen. Next to each smaller bubble, it would have thoughts and questions to how to make each step happen. Sure, it's not as colorful as pictures carefully clipped out of a magazine, but it worked for me back then and I'm sure if I did it again, it would work again. :-) :-) I believe that this is kind of what Grey's doctor had him trying as part of his therapy in the Fifty Shades books - he had him concentrating on his future instead of dwelling on the past. The only thing was that Grey didn't make his dream board and I think he was slowing down his own therapeutic progress leaving this part out. How can you achieve your dream if you can't see it laid out? I'm sure that with his business success that he had to have some kind of plan in mind for get to that point, so what was keeping him from being a success mentally as well? Okay, enough about that book and back to Breaking TWIG.
Becky's story was actually pretty good. I took my time reading this book this time. I just had to put that book down sometimes because it made me feel sad. Actually, that last book I read, Chasing China, was the same way. Hmm, I don't like that. The last time I did that I ended up spending $20 on the stupid Fifty Shades books! No, no... can't have that happen again. I'm still going to hold off on getting the final installment of the Fifty Shades books and probably reread one of my favorite fantasy fictions books. I haven't picked up a Terry Brooks book in a while so maybe I'll do that... or the next Ender's Game book in that series. I just need to stay away from these sad books for a while!!! :-)
Happy (hopefully happier than my last two books!) reading,