|Devil in the Grove:
Thurgood Marshall, The Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
by Gilbert King, narrated by Peter Francis James
|The Evil Hours, by David J. Morris
Narrated by Michael Chamberlain
|Let Me In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist, narrated by Steven Pacey|
|3.5 stars for flow, eeriness, mystery – star lost for child sexual abuse|
This is a series of posts summarizing what I’m learning in my Abnormal Psychology course. Much of the information provided comes from reading my James N. Butcher’s textbook Abnormal Psychology. To read the other posts, follow these links:
The Definition of Abnormal
A History of Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal Psychology in Contemporary Society
Contemporary Viewpoints on Treating Mental Illness – Biology
Contemporary Viewpoints on Treating Mental Illness – Psychology
Frontline: New Asylums
Brave New Films: This is Crazy
Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis: Biological Assessment
Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis: Psychological Assessment
Does the DSM Encourage Overmedication?
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – The Basics
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Hoarding and Body Dysmorphic Disorders
Depression – an Overview
Personality Disorders – Clusters and Dimensions
Personality Disorders – Cluster A
Personality Disorders – Cluster B
Personality Disorders – Cluster C
Biological Effects of Stress on Your Body
Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders
Borderline Personality Disorder
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Gender Dysphoria – Homosexuality and Transgender
Bipolar Disorder – The Basics
Suicide – An Overview
Written by Bonnie Nadzam and Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Reason for Reading: This was long-listed for the Prize Formerly Known as Orange.
Lamb hits a mid-life crisis when his wife divorces him for infidelity and his father passes away. Just after his father’s funeral, he meets Tommie – an 11-year-old girl who desperately needs guidance. Lamb is strangely attracted to the girl – he wants to help her seize life, he wants to buy her presents and make her happy. Then, with Tommie’s consent, he abducts her.
I had a really hard time deciding how to rate Lamb. The narrative was intriguing – almost addictive – but the subject matter was very disturbing. I had a hard time putting it down because I wanted to know how it would end. I felt compelled to keep reading despite a deepening sense of unease. From the subject, I should have known it would make me feel that way, but I thought it would be a book with more hope in it. I respect the way Nadzam kept the details subtle. There were no highly disturbing scenes (well, there was ONE scene that was a bit disturbing, but it could have been much, much worse). My recommendation – read this book if you would enjoy looking at pedophilia from another perspective, but avoid it if this is a sensitive topic for you.
Before deciding how to rate the book, I took a look at what other people had said about it. There are, predictably, people who loved the book and people who hated it. In the interest of proving to myself that I’m not narrow-minded, I want to have a spoilerish discussion to address some issues that came up in the positive reviews.
First of all, one review pointed out that it was unclear who the narrator of this book was. To me, it seemed that the book was in the third person subjective, focusing on Lamb. There were a few scenes where it seemed to be from the POV of Tommie, but even that could have been in Lamb’s head. So that’s how I’m interpreting the book – our narrator is telling us what Lamb is thinking, and sometimes Lamb thinks about what Tommie is thinking, and sometimes he thinks about what might be happening back in Chicago as Tommie’s parents look for her, but we’re always inside Lamb’s head. That is very important for how I interpreted the book.
Another thing that affects the way I perceive Lamb – I despised him from the beginning. Even before he abducted Tommie. Even when his intentions seemed kind. I despised him because of how he treated his girlfriend. He was manipulative and creepy and a liar. All he wanted was sex, and although he claimed to have qualms of conscience about his behavior, that’s ALL he had. Small qualms. These qualms didn’t stop him from manipulating her, did they? Qualms of conscience don’t make someone a “good” person. Listening to qualms makes a person “good.” Behavior is what I’m interested in, not whether a person feels guilt or not. The fact that he feels guilt proves that he’s not a sociopath, but he’s still a jerk. Just because he rationalizes his behavior, does not mean his rationalizations are justification. We need to interpret his rationalizations with skepticism.
Yes, he rationalized his original interest in Tommie as helpfulness. But let’s think about it. The very first time he met Tommie, he grabbed her arm and threw her in his truck so hard that her head hit the window. She was terrified. Yes, he rationalized that he was helping her to see what could have happened. She shouldn’t have approached him – a stranger – because he could have been dangerous. He rationalized that he taught her a lesson. But the fact that he was willing to frighten her like that was the first hint that his behavior towards her was driven by darker urges. Yes, perhaps this time around his rationalization had some grain of truth in it. Perhaps she did learn a lesson. But was that lesson his to teach?
Lamb’s rationalizations continued throughout the entire book. I never interpreted them as anything but rationalizations. So I was rather surprised when I read in some reviews that they interpreted his intentions as good. Let’s think about this.
Rationalization 1) Abducting her in front of her friends taught her a lesson about approaching strangers and about shallow friends. – We discussed this above.
Rationalization 2) Encouraging her to skip school and lie to her parents in order to hang out with him didn’t corrupt her, because she was already doing those things. – Well, if he really cared, he wouldn’t encourage her to skip school and keep secrets. That’s sleazy, creepy behavior.
Rationalization 3) Abducting her and teaching her to be a woman was helpful, because she needed that experience…it would help her break out of that awkward phase in life and burst into the world with new confidence. She’d look back with fondness on him. – Now this is where the rationalization gets sticky. I interpreted these flash-forwards to be rationalizations taking place in Lamb’s head. BUT, if you interpret these flash-forwards to be accurate or from the point of view of Tommie, I can see where you might (as some people apparently do!) think that Lamb helped Tommie. In the interest of not being narrow-minded, I tried to look at it from that point of view. But, no. The story simply makes more sense to me if I interpret these flash-forwards as rationalizations in the head of Lamb. And Lamb is rationalizing because he knows he’s hurting her. In fact, it’s clear he knows he’s hurting her, because there are other scenes in which he’s crying and telling Tommie that if she ever hates him, she should kick his balls in. Doesn’t that show us that he knows he’s doing wrong?
Some reviews actually suggested that Lamb loved Tommie, and that his intentions were good. But he knew he was hurting her (or else he wouldn’t break down into tears and tell her to kick his balls in, and he wouldn’t rationalize). He was consciously lying and manipulating her. (It’s clear that these were conscious acts, because in one scene he pointed out to his girlfriend that he makes people say and do things.) So, I’m convinced that Lamb knew he was hurting her – why would he act that way if he loved her? That’s not love. Love is selfless. That’s a darker sort of obsession. That’s acting on urges. Love can be an obsession, but we shouldn’t assume that obsession is love.
Finally, some people questioned whether Lamb had actually slept with Tommie. There was nothing that directly said he did, but I felt it was implied. He definitely kissed her, saw her naked, and slept in the same bed as her. Furthermore he got kicks out of letting Tommie watch him having sex with his girlfriend, which is a form of molestation in itself. So, yes, how far he went is still a question, and I’m glad I didn’t have to read that one last detail. But I made my own conclusion about the issue – and it wasn’t good.
Congo Dawn, by Jeanette Windle
Reason for Reading: This is my first (and feature) book for the 2013 Social Justice Theme Read. An ARC was provided by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review.
When Robin Duncan takes on a security/translator contract in Democratic Republic of Congo, she doesn’t expect all of her old wounds to open. Then she meets a man that she hoped to never see again, and she is reminded not only of her disappointment in humanity but also of the senseless death of her brother. Duncan must struggle inwardly with these issues while she maintains military efficiency in her team’s efforts to capture a deadly insurgent leader. Soon, she learns that not all is as it seems – sometimes, good seems evil and evil seems good. Sometimes well-intentioned people can become monsters while fighting monsters.
Most Christian Suspense I’ve read is fairly fluffy, so I was surprised (and impressed) with the meatiness of this plot. I found the intensity of the mercenary action against the insurgency convincing. Often, I found myself unable to put the book down for suspense. The romantic tension was delicious, and added emotional depth to the characters without distracting from the suspense plot. And, of course, I always find stories about social justice medical personnel heartwarming. I also learned a lot about the Democratic Republic of Congo while reading this book. Windle has done a lot of research to back up all aspects of her plot – and it really shines through.
The only con would be a con ONLY to people who specifically avoid Christian Fiction. At one point, the suspense is, well, suspended by a philosophical discussion about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. This discussion would be interesting to any reader of Christian Fiction (i.e. the target audience), and the philosophy is demonstrated in the story by action. For those of you who generally avoid Christian Fiction because you feel it is “preachy,” I recommend that you give this book a try anyway. Yes, there is that short section, but the rest of the book is all philosophy-demonstrated-by-action.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am eager to read more of Windle’s works now that I’ve had this taste. 🙂