||November 5, 2006
Barnes & Noble.com
Follow a woman's journey as she loses herself into a world of domestic abuse
Everyone thinks Nancy Lewiston Cooper has it all; beauty, intelligence, a loving family, a great husband and gorgeous children. But her life is not as it appears.
In the days before she met the man she would marry, Nancy finished her college degree and appeared to have a bright future. But when she met and fell in love with Vince, her plans changed. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the honeymoon that Nancy discovered Vince's dual personality -- cruel and abusive one minute, sweet as can be the next.
In the months that follow, Nancy fell into a vicious cycle. To avoid the horrible, abusive confrontations with her husband, she agrees to his lifestyle -- drugs, sex, alcohol, and her complete submissivesness. Nancy believes that if she has a baby, her husband's disposition will improve. But things do not change, even when Nancy becomes pregnant with their second child. Feeling isolated, depressed, and fragile, Nancy struggles to hang onto her sanity.
Turning the corner and seeing her house made Nancy’s stomach lurch. The lights inside were blazing, and there were cars parked up and down the street. Music was blaring, and she could see people walking around. Nancy had to park five doors down the street, and as she took Frank out of his car seat, she heard a bottle break. Frank had been sleeping, but the noise woke him up, and he immediately began to cry.
Nancy shoved her way into the house and into the living room, stepping over trash. She could not see her couch or the two recliners and coffee table because there were so many people sitting on and around them. Empty beer bottles, pizza boxes, cigarette butts, and soda cans were piled everywhere. And there was no sign of her husband.
She walked over to the entertainment center and turned off the stereo.
Vince came running in from the backyard. Nancy heard the screen door slam and more bottles break along the way.
“What the fu—? Oh, hi, hon,” he said, as he started fumbling with his shirt. “I didn’t expect you back tonight.”
“Yes, I can see that,” Nancy retorted. She turned and went into the kitchen, still carrying a crying Frank. She cleared enough room to put her sobbing child into his highchair. There was cocaine residue on the corner of the kitchen table, as well as bottles of tequila, vodka, rum, and all the makings for mixed drinks. It appeared that this party had been going on for two days. Nancy stared at the mess that surrounded her, clenched her teeth, and made up a bottle for Frank. Then she took the baby into his room for a clean diaper and warm pajamas. She sat in the rocking chair and gently rocked him to sleep as he sucked the warm milk. This is not the way it is supposed to be, she told herself. After Frank had settled down, she gently placed him in his crib and went to take a hot shower. By the time she climbed into bed, her emotions finally caught up with her. She cried into her pillow as she wondered how she had allowed this to happen. When had she lost control over her own life?
It is hard to reach some kind of understanding of Nancy's situation, but you must try,
If you have no experience or understanding about women in a relationship with a vicious, controlling man, then this story will make little sense. Nancy Cooper is a woman who experienced a major loss her first year of college when her best friend for life was killed in an auto accident. While still in shock from that, the RA of her floor raped her and she was afraid to tell anyone about it. While she was able to go to another school and do very well, the internal damage that leaves her psychologically weak and vulnerable persists.
When she meets Vince, the initial mutual attraction was strong. However, as they started a relationship, there were many warning signs that Vince was a bad man. However, Nancy always managed to rationalize the anomalies and Vince was able to turn on the charm when necessary. As is almost always the case, their relationship follows a sinusoidal pattern of ups and downs with the downs getting deeper and dragging Nancy further down each time. When their second child is born, Nancy reaches the decision to leave Vince and flees to her sister's house.
Once there, she realizes that she always had a support structure in place and her family immediately closes ranks to help. However, Vince has threatened to kill her and the children and since Nancy was once arrested for possession of cocaine there is the real possibility that Vince would be given the kids in any custody battle. Therefore, with the help of some friends Nancy and the children assume new identities and disappear into society.
Reading this book is hard because for most of the book you are thinking, "Get away from him." At first when they are dating and the warning signs appear, you preface it with "Are you blind?" Later, you preface it by "You are in danger!" However, all you can do is read on and try to reach some level of understanding of Nancy's vulnerability. It is a hard understanding to reach, especially after the children are born. That state is reached by knowing that this story is almost certainly a conglomeration of true stories. These things happen in the real world and while we are all responsible for our action, some are less responsible than others.
Front Street Reviews
Private Scars by Brenda Youngerman tells the story of a battered woman who does all she can to hide the challenges she faces at home from the public.
Nancy Lewiston Cooper has it all on the surface, but as is often the case in real accounts of domestic violence, the surface doesn't come anywhere near the private demons faced by those affected by domestic violence. News accounts tell of stories of prominent women who are affected, yet the belief persists that this, domestic violence, affects only poor people. Further, the belief is prevalent that the victims would have some way of knowing what was coming and could avoid it, if they chose. This book does a good job in attempting to show the truth beyond these persistent beliefs.
Nancy and her husband Vince are both well-written characters. Nancy is more than a victim and Vince is more than an evil abuser. It's the fact that these characters exist beyond the stereotypes often attributed to them is what helps the story's flow along. These are real characters, almost real people who the reader could expect to meet in the course of their day. These could even be our neighbors.
Perhaps what allows Nancy to persevere as long as she does is help from family, such as Matt, Olivia, and her parents ultimately. Matt knew there was more going on and pushed Nancy as much as he could, yet he was cognizant of causing her further pain. At the same time, it was clear that Nancy wanted to trust someone. Wanted to tell the truth. However her trust had been violated so severely by Vince that it's almost as if she cannot trust anyone else, which is her undoing. Finally though, she learns. She sees there is another option. But her past will always be with her.
The powerful message contained within this slim volume is one that will resonate with the reader even after the book is done.
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