The first thing I want to say about this book should be obvious, but I just want to make sure: I am reviewing this as a work of literature. Ross is an incredibly strong woman to have overcome all she has gone through, and it goes without saying that it must have taken incredible bravery to write this memoir in the first place. That said, as inspiring as it is for her to reflect on her abuse and how she was able to move past it, I did have serious issues with the book itself. Ross does a great job at letting the reader know what it is like in the mind of somebody who has been abused, how it lead to a cycle of bad behaviours including an abusive relationship with a man named Colin. Reflecting on one of their very first dates, Ross writes:
"It took a long time for Colin to calm himself enough to accept my apology. I stared past him, wishing I could resume dancing. But when someone tells you how wounded he is- partially on account of your actions- a pair of shackles materializes out of the air and binds you together. I knew I'd crossed a line. I also knew there was no retracting."Despite knowing instantly that Colin is bad news, Ross doesn't know how to escape his grip on her life. It is devastating to read about her putting herself in harm's way after finally having gotten away from her childhood abuse. Behaviours such as this are unfortunate but understandable, and from what I gathered in the book, quite unsurprising for victims of abuse which can severely damage their self-esteem. Still, too often I found myself knowing what Ross was doing but not quite understanding the why, I wished she would have elaborating more on what she was thinking when she made particular decisions.
Often, I found Ross' actions very conflicting and confusing. She wants to be independent of her mother and stepfather, but continues to accept money from them. She lets them pay for the wedding, but then refuses to let her stepfather walk her down the aisle. She seems to sway back and forth in so many of her decisions, wanting to have it both ways. At times, the reason for this seems clear- that she doesn't want to make a hassle- but then she does something that directly conflicts with her previous actions and as a reader I became confused again.
Ross also allows her stepfather to spend a lot of time with her children, even though he has never really come clean about how he abused her. Then, when he finally does, she decides he's not allowed to see them anymore (or at least very rarely). It is hard for me to fathom in what kind of situation a mother would allow her abuser access to her own children, and it is also something that Ross appears to struggle with. That said, Ross' decision that because her stepfather has finally been honest with her, he should no longer be able to see her children, doesn't really make sense to me as a reader. That's not to say it's wrong- but I read this book to get insight into her situation and the lack of explanation about her actions often left me puzzled and wanting more.
The other problem I had with The Source of All Things is the extensive detail about all of Ross' wilderness adventures like living in Alaska. These sorts of experiences may be interesting to some people, but I was expecting a memoir, not a travel journal, and oftentimes the book got bogged down and distracted by all of this unrelated information. The memoir itself is based on an article Ross wrote, and I can't help but wonder if when she went to elaborate she got quite off-topic in the process. The part of the book that did touch me especially was when Ross talks about what she wants her legacy to be for her own sons, children she never imagined she would have because she felt so damaged by her own childhood. Writing about them, she says:
"One day, when they are old enough to finally read this, I’ll want my sons to know they rescued me. That even though I was terrified by their raw, needy bodies, I loved them the second I touched the silky hairs covering their rice-paper skin. Ever since they were born, they have forced me out of the darkness and into a bigger, happier world."The Source of All Things definitely shows what the impact of abuse can be long-term on a person and it is an incredibly brave book, and portions of it were quite successful, but I found it too often was off-topic and unclear to be completely successful as a memoir.
Release Date: March 8th, 2011
Source: Egalley from Publisher
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