Courage in Patience
Courage in Patience. Not wanting to think about sexual abuse -- let alone another child suffering through rape -- I stalled by focusing on the title. How clever it had been for the author to set most of the action in a town called Patience. At least read the rest of this summary, I thought. It quickly became clear that although the book is a novel, Beth Fehlbaum did not write it from the perspective of a person standing outside looking in. She, too, was sexually assaulted as a child. Not only has she faced what happened, she has worked through her pain so she can help others see that they are not alone. Instead of letting stress burn her up inside, she braved smoke and flames in order to throw open a window. That is her holding out a flag that says in large, bold letters, You are not a victim, you are you. No one is more valuable. Fear and anger must not be allowed to consume you. There is a rainbow at the end of the long, storm-prone road to recovery, and that road leads to a smoother one.
Knowing all this did not keep me from stalling again. Child abuse -- particularly sexual abuse -- is not academic to me. The very idea makes scars that Time has not healed throb. I became a writer in the hope that shedding light will eventually dry the sludge poisoning my psyche enough that some will blow away. What doesn't can be channeled to some far-off sea, where it will immediately sink to the bottom, never to surface again. Pouring hurt onto paper has helped Ink fades, after all. You can burn paper if you have to. But no matter what you do, a certain amount of residue is going to cling. What you need to do is season it with love and understanding, then make a healing poultice of the mixture and spread it around. I am so glad I quite stalling. Because Courage in Patience does just that.
Beth Fehlbaum has written a story that I guarantee will stay with you. Her characters are fully developed, not Joan of Arcs and Darth Vaders. She was so smart not to make a goodie-goodie of the girl who is the target of the abuse. Not only do you empathize, you end up aching for her to find a way out of the dark! The man who abuses her acts despicably, but he is human. Only a stone would not hurt when reading about the rapes, but what stabbed me the deepest was the mother's betrayal. It brought memories to the surface that I do my best to keep in the graves I worked hard and long to dig and fill. The only time I unearth them is when I am writing. When I write about them, it is in the hope of killing them. (Know I can't, but it would be dishonest to pretend I don't try.) Like Beth Fehlbaum, I harbor the hope that my ordeal will ring enough bells to ease others' pain and and make at least a few abusers seek help.
One reservation that I had in the beginning was that the novel was really two, and should be split. I was wrong. The book is not "about sexual abuse." It is not "about racial discrimination." It is about accepting who we are. It is about accepting each other. It is about faith. It is about gut-level courage and dogged patience and the value -- no, the absolute necessity -- of a free, well-rounded, genuinely enlightened education. It is about the worst in us and the best in us. I love to read books that somehow manage to entertain while teaching important lessons. That teach without teaching down! Courage in Patience is all this and more. Were there medals for fortitude and compassion, she would surely qualify.
I am convinced that one of the mega-publishers will pick up the novel. I am hoping that the editions they print will be in standard, single-spaced format. Double-spacing makes the book look longer than it is. This is a very minor drawback. I only mention it because I would like to see Courage in Patience reach millions. If you haven't read it, you are missing out.
Phyllis Jean D. Green
N: Courage in Patience is available at Amazon.