Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise, and trading on your integrity and not having dignity in life. That’s really where failure comes. – Tom Cochrane
It’s particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There’s always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you. – Catharine MacKinnon
I have begun to notice a disturbing trend in romance novels lately. For example, let us examine the case of Lillie and Nick. Totally devoted to one another since Lillie was six. Friends, playmates, companions. Then high school lovers. Then totally devoted live-in fiancées. Then, thing turn bad.
Every night, after her own day of university classes and working long hours on her feet in her family café, she waits for his return from his residency shift at Baylor Medical, only to be met with cold indifference.
“Maye that’s the danger in loving someone too much: you’re so blinded by it that you can’t see what’s already over until one side of the bed is empty and cold.”
Constant cold, sifting into her body, leaching away her soul. Her beloved friend, confidant, companion, lover, no longer cares for her. The man she knew no longer lives in this body. No longer talks with her.
And then one day, she learns something terrible. Something heartbreaking and devastating about her own family. He adores her father, Jackson, who took the place of the father he never had. Surely he will talk with her, be once again the friend and devoted companion she has known all those years. They can find a way to work through this, right? Right? But he doesn’t come home, not until the wee small hours, long after his shift is done. Where has he been? Out. The age-old response of the cheat, the drunk – or the person who doesn’t love you enough to want to come home any longer, and just doesn’t have the guts to tell you it’s over.
But still, she tries to reach out to him, to draw her back to him. But.
“I don’t have the energy to do this right now.” “Save it … You spend your days serving pie to people in a diner, so excuse me if I don’t see why this conversation can’t wait…”
He grabbed the plate off the coffee table and threw it against the wall.
Great. The introduction to physical violence, as well as emotional.
Devastated, scorned by the man she loves with her whole heart, by her own family and those she thought to be friends, she packs. Packs, and leaves for the airport. She takes the first plane out, Chicago, just because, “they are boarding now, you can make it if you hurry.” For five years, she has no one to lean on, no one to hold her when she cries, to help her through her pain or help her to find her laughter again. Finally, she is successful, on a partner track with her firm, and has found a kind, considerate, gentle lover. He isn’t Nick, but he is loving, open, kind – and he is safe. Safe from the pain, the upheaval, the not knowing what is in his heart and mind, what cruelty will pour from his mouth at any moment. No icy silences. No nights of returning long hours after his shift is done with no explanation, no words. She is content. Maybe not blissfully, passionately happy. But content. Something she hasn’t been in a very long time.
Then, her father, Jackson, sends a text message, and she finds herself back in Dallas, terrified for his health and safety. But, funny old thing that. The text was apparently a lie – a lie designed to bring her back to Dallas, to her old life, no matter her career, her coming promotion to partner in the most prestigious firm in Chicago, her life, her new relationship – no matter the agony of coming back to friends and acquaintances who blame her for leaving. Blame her for “giving up.” Well, of course. When one leaves, the other can act in any manner, say anything, and the one who left? Well.
Lillie comes back to disdain and blame. To cruelty and lies, betrayal and poisoned tongues couched in “Why Suuugar… we know what’s best for you, Bless Your Heart!, and a constant chorus of, “It’s your fault” “What did you do to fix it?” “You gave up on him, he didn’t give up on you.” You weren’t patient enough. You weren’t giving enough. You weren’t understanding enough. You weren’t you weren’t you weren’t… And of course, “It’s about you, your life, the choices you’re making. Jackson (and everyone else, supposedly) only wants what’s best for you.”
Well, what everyone ELSE thinks is “best for you.”
Back to the land where women like Sullivan Grace Hasell reside – “better known as Ms. Bless Your Heart for her uncanny ability to insult the sin out of someone but mask it as a compliment swathed in a little southern flair.” And a whole lot of bullying. For your own good, of course. . .
It’s. All. Her. Fault. She left. She didn’t try hard enough. She wasn’t forgiving enough. She wasn’t patient enough. She wasn’t she wasn’t she wasn’t – SHE is to blame, it is all on her, all her fault, and poor little Nick suffered oh, so much after she so cruelly walked out on him without a backwards glance and made herself a new life, and sin of sins, learned to be happy!
Well, Bless Your Heart!
And thus, the crux. All. Her. Fault. Her very soul is being sucked from her body by a man who shows her every day, and in every way, he cares nothing about her, considers her a burden, a lesser being, a horrible mistake made by a child that a man suddenly realizes is just that – a mistake – one he doesn’t even care about enough to tell to run back home to her father as he doesn’t want her any more. Was she supposed to reside forever upon this black and endless plain of existence, devoid of love, of kindness, of warmth? Was she supposed to stay, until and after the thrown crockery became thrown punches?
Lillie is one of the bravest people I have read. She stood up, pulled up her big girl panties, and took her broken heart and shattered life and became someone completely new – someone who would not ever let herself be hurt like that again. But she still returns to find that SHE is the one to blame for “Poor Nick – your betrayal, your running away, your cowardice, broke the man, Bless Your Heart!” And the worst part? She starts to believe it. To believe that she is everything that the people who should love and support her say she is. And that is just Wrong.
Things changed while she was gone – but instead of open, honest interaction she is faced on every side by lies, both outright and by omission. While everyone claims to care for her, no one is willing to give her respect, to accept that there was not only one side to the story. That just possibly, Lillie had to save herself when she could no longer save them.
Give me a fucking break. In the words of mighty Hamlet, “therein lies the rub.” It is the woman’s fault – no matter the situation. No matter if she can no longer see the way across the night dark plains, the light has faded, and the beasts are upon her. It. Is. Her. Fault.
Parts of From Scratch are funny, touching, and positive. But the overall feel of encouraging women to return to a 1950’s mindset where emotional and physical abuse are not only commonplace but normal, where women are expected to conform to a backward society’s mores, no matter the pain to herself, is terrifying.
I received this book in return for a realistic review. I wouldn’t normally be so brutal, but this book sends terrible, horrible, very not good messages about a woman’s place in society and in personal relationships – about how it is acceptable to blame women for wrongs brought on by their partners, their families, their friends. About how said family and friends are perfectly justified in blaming, lying, withholding life and death information. About punishing the victim. This could have been a funny, wise, thoughtful book – instead, it comes across as a call to returning women to the dark ages of a lack of social justice and emotional disregard. Something I am seeing a bit too much in today’s romance novels.