A reader recently wrote a review of my novel, Better Than This, and described that it was painful to read, but not in a bad way. Rather, it was a book that explored a difficult topic, but ultimately left the reader feeling hopeful and empowered. As a psychotherapist, I think writing (and reading) about facing difficult things in life can be inspirational and motivating. I want to speak to those readers who may need to hear that they aren’t alone, that there is hope, that there is a path to a better and more fulfilling life. To know that change and healing are possible.
I’ve read several other books similar to mine recently – books that explore the darker side of human nature, but that also offer hope or redemption—some of which I’ve discussed in earlier blog posts. Kerry Fisher’s The Silent Wife (Blog #19 – Girls, Girls and more Girls) was an honest and insightful portrayal of how confusing and pervasive self-doubt and self-blame can be in an abusive relationship. It sheds compassionate light on the difficulty that abused women have reaching out for help.
Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us, also takes you inside the very gray world of domestic abuse. Hoover masterfully portrays the confusing pull of being in love with someone hurtful. We gain more understanding as to why women stay, as well as how personal histories of both the abuser and victim influence the dynamic. I felt empathy for all the characters and while the outcome was satisfying, the heartbreak was also there.
This was my first Colleen Hoover book and by her admission in the author’s note, it is very different than her other books. It portrays how the world of domestic abuse is not black and white – something I also attempted to do in my novel. I thought Hoover did a great job of taking the reader inside the struggle of whether to stay and forgive – or leave. And why that decision is fraught with strong and conflicted emotions. It was painful, heartbreaking, empathic, hopeful and ultimately empowering.
Another book that shared similar themes to my novel was Her Greatest Mistake by Sarah Simpson who is a psychologist. I love any book that explores the realms of psychology, from the normal and expected responses to everyday stressors or past traumas, to the extremes of psychological disfunction and sociopathy. Well, Simpson’s book definitely falls into that latter category. An intense inside look at the impossible no-win situation of extreme abuse and how terror can impact even the sanest of minds, it is hard to put down. Simpson’s experience as a psychologist definitely shines through in this riveting debut that easily falls into the psychological thriller genre.
Finally, Tiger Drive by Teri Case explores a family in crisis. I loved this book and Case’s compassionate treatment of her characters, all of whom feel abandoned by hope and each other but who ultimately find redemption and connection, each in their own unique way. Family dysfunction is painful to see, but there’s always more to the relationships than meets the eye. Case does a masterful job of slowly revealing secrets and hidden strengths. I moved through many emotions while reading this book – anger, sadness, hopelessness and hopefulness – never imagining in the early parts of the book that I would ultimately finish the last page feeling uplifted.
I realize that for many reading is an escape, something they do for fun. I can definitely relate. At times I just want a fun beach read. But when I’m in the right frame of mind, I always appreciate the satisfaction that comes with reading a book that “gets real”. What about you? Are there any books that explored real life struggles in a way that was inspiring to you?