This book review is published on Reedsy/Discovery.
Renee Olivier’s memoir was painful to read, not because it was poorly written but because it is so detailed, forthcoming, raw and enlightening. I was swept away with Olivier’s story of her relationship with Joe, her husband and a sociopath. The author shares the experience of living with someone who would continuously transmogrify from a loving, charming man to a person she did not even know. Joe’s ability to deceive, manipulate and “gaslight” put her in a state of mind where she second-guessed her own sensibility and reactions to the vagaries of his behavior. Her children, Ryan and Emma, and the children she raised with Joe, Hannah and Callie, were her salvation. Breaking up the family was unimaginable, but then so was the torment they all endured.
The primary theme is antisocial personality disorder (ASPD); how it is shrouded, manifested and destructive. I wanted to reach into the book and forcibly yank her out of the situation. It is so easy to ask, why didn’t you leave? Understanding this is a natural reaction from the outside looking in, Olivier takes the reader through the mechanics of her thinking to try to answer this question. I can only imagine how arduous it must have been for her to dig so deeply into the past and replay these dark memories.
The timeline of the story encompasses decades, but it was an incredibly fast read. I could not put it down. It carried me through a rollercoaster of emotions; fear, hope, anger, confusion, shock, empathy and, finally, relief. Olivier demonstrates a talent for touching on all the important facets of her story, giving depth when needed but keeping the story moving at a rapid pace. I feel vested in the people in her story and am hoping for a sequel so I can find if they turned out okay. That speaks to Olivier’s ability to connect you to her characters.
I highly recommend this book to readers who love memoir, especially one that teaches a valuable lesson: “Reclaim your life by standing up against anyone who takes away from your happiness.”