The difficulty with commenting on this book objectively is the fact that it is impossible to ignore the courage it has taken for this author to tell her story in the first place. First and foremost, Catherine Brown is no author; she is the mother of four children who were sexually abused for three years by their father, grandfather and possibly others. Her bravery in believing her children’s accusations, confronting the intimidating, almost gothic, family of her ex-husband and taking full proceedings in a court of law is breathtaking. Is this an important story everyone should read? Undoubtedly. Is it a great work of literature? No, and perhaps here Catherine has wasted an opportunity to deliver this important story to the wide audience that should hear it.
The opening chapters of Catherine’s account struggle in finding a consistent voice. The theme appears to be describing her physical and emotional experiences of her teens in the free-love era of the sixties. This is initially very effective, but she patchily inflects it with retrospective imposition of meaning drawn from her Christian faith that she developed at a later stage in her life. This is a literary device with which even seasoned authors falter; Brown is unconvincing. The disappointment is that the result is a dilution of her adventurous yet nervous spirit as a teenager.
Where Brown hits her stride as a true storyteller, however, is in the harrowing tale of the years that follow her separation from her husband. Firstly, her witness of his spiral into self-destructive behavior, followed by the horrendous revelations of her children. Her memory of this time is crystal clear, and she does not become distracted as elsewhere with dressing the text. As such, her relationship with God therefore also becomes relevant to the story. Previously, it felt as though she was pressing an unnecessary and almost bombastic piety on top of her recollections.
It concerns me that, with this extroverted Christian theme to the text and livery, this book is being marketed specifically to Christian readers only. This may alienate other readership groups, and it should not. I felt a wise and serene sense of perspective from reading this book. It horrified me that this kind of sexual abuse can happen to an apparently normal family, that it is so prevalent and widespread that special task forces exist to deal with it. More importantly, though, it shows that regardless of what evil pervades our world, communication and love within a family unit can bring the unit through whatever catastrophe it may face. It is this that is Catherine Brown’s major achievement, and I feel honored to have borne witness to it through this book. Will you find a better-written book? Easily. Will you find a more life-affirming story? I would be surprised.