"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love Me Back to Life by Missy Horsfall and Susan Stevens

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Summary: A woman painfully struggles to keep her life and marriage together.

Have you seen the movie Fireproof based on the book The Love Dare? It's an overacted movie starring born-again Christian Kirk Cameron. The movie was painful to watch - as if the directors had commanded, "Get mad now!" or "Pretend that you're attracted to your co-worker."

This book is one cliched crisis after another. Mallory is a burnt-out mother with a shopping addiction and massive credit card debt she's trying to hide from her husband. Her husband Jake is off pursuing his photography career and only seems to want sex with Mallory without the hard work of parenting his children. Of course, it doesn't help their sex life that Mallory flinches when Jake touches her.

And Jake and Mallory hardly spend any time together. It's especially telling that Jake won't go to church with Mallory, since God is such a big part of Mallory's life. When Jake gets offered a job away from home, again, Mallory shouts at Jake to leave, instead of sobbing in the kitchen and telling him how close she is to the breaking point. Jake walks out.

Then one day, Mallory's prayer group is asked to pray for a young girl who was raped. Mallory has a psychotic break and trembles in the kitchen, only to be comforted by her friend and her pastor's wife. I was relieved when Yvonne, the pastor wife, suggested a therapist, since child sexual abuse is more than she and her husband are prepared to council.  Mallory is so fragile and I worried she'd drive her minivan into oncoming traffic just to stop the pain.

Jennifer, Mallory's therapist, seems comforting and supportive and helps Mallory remember that Mallory was raped as a child. We then uncover that Mallory was raped by her older brother Eric as a child. Further shocking us is that Mallory told her father about the rape and he did nothing to stop it.
According to Yvonne, Mallory had a strong foundation. That was a good start; faith in God was a stronger remedy than all the counseling Jennifer could give. 
That was hard to read, since Mallory has had God in her life for so long, but wasn't moved to seek help before now. Then Mallory is challenged to tell her parents. Her mother scolds her for saying such a terrible thing. Her father says nothing. We can't tell if they believe her. Then she confronts the brother who raped her. He never admits his crime, which felt authentic yet was unfulfilling as a book. I do recognize that many rape victims do not get closure.

Once Jake walked out, he had a crisis of his own and then literally has a "come to Jesus" moment. Mallory and Jake are reunited with the help of their pastor, and Mallory stopped shopping. Crises solved!

This book is what would happen if two pastors' wives wrote a book - and they did. Easy to solve ending, help from a pastor, stereotypical problems (busy parenting, busy husband, missed opportunities for sex, etc). I know the authors wanted Mallory to have the kind of problems that people could relate to, but I just wasn't impressed.  It started off as a story of a woman experiencing great personal pain, but ended up as a lecture.

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