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Book Review: Torn from the inside out by Sara Niles

“Torn from the inside out” is a non-fiction account of a woman who spends thirteen years in an abusive marriage. Synthesizing an entire book down to that one sentence robs it of the true horror that this book represents.

The book follows Sara from her life as a child to her life as a battered wife. What I expected and found in this book is the horrible, repetitive, numbing nature of domestic abuse. In doing only that, Sara has done a service with her book. For those of you not familiar with domestic abuse, you’ll find that Sara expertly guides the reader through the unfortunately well-worn path and progression of this pathology. Starting with the initial disbelief and ending with a numbness and acceptance of repeated, awful terrors, Sara weaves a tapestry of pure evil and hopelessness.

Sara has a fine evocative touch with her pen. The story begins with a rendering of an almost idyllic life in the rural south during the nineteen-sixties. Poetic and flowery without being cloying, Sara’s style is highly evocative. Almost immediately the reader finds themselves immersed in the culture and the period of Sara’s youth. Slowly, throughout the book, the tone changes to fit the events and people that become a reality in the life of a battered woman, fighting for the survival of her and her children. Sara’s narrative expertly fits the events in her book.

Sara has done her job, leading the reader as she was led, into the psychopathy and lies of abuse. The question becomes, for the reader: Why read a book that is disturbing and terrifying and, worst of all, true to life? While the book is a “good read”, it also has elements that are shocking and raw. The answer to this question lies in Sara’s assertion that we are entrusted with the well-being of others, especially the children who are put into our care. Consider first that thousands of women are killed each year due to domestic violence. Consider also that the children who witness endless and senseless violence from a father who is a sociopath, have their world-view warped and their self-image twisted. Often this leads to substance abuse, mental health issues, and, often, to becoming abusers themselves.

If this were only true in even a hundred cases a year, a reader might consider this a marginal problem. What is true is that there are thousands of women abused ever year which represents thousands of families and thousands of children whose lives are essentially ruined for the years that they are witnesses to abuse and, quite often, for years after.

This book is worth your time. If nothing else it will make you think. At best it will sensitize you to an issue that affects society, and the reader, in ways that have only begun to be examined by law makers, police and mental health practitioners.

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