My rating: 5 of 5 stars
***I won this book in a Twitter competition run by Hachette Australia***
I initially found it hard to identify with Sally because she made choices I think I wouldn’t have, but then I realised I was falling into the trap of sitting on my high horse: I’m not in her situation. I haven’t had to face her choices. That’s why I read her story: to find out what happened and how she got there.
Sally’s is a story of unequal power in a relationship, and in that respect it’s like other stories of abuse, physical or mental, and none of us have the right to judge her. Her own statement about what she has come to accept as normal is deeply insightful; a perfect portrayal of how the slide into hellishness is gradual and even comfortable.
This story is filled with Sally’s humanity; her imperfections, erracticness, unpredictability; her failings and regrets. This is her story to her children, via anyone in the world who is able to pass it on to them.
In truth, we can all learn from the mistakes of Sally and Ali. Neither of them educated themselves about the vastly different cultures they were marrying into – the way women are perceived and treated, the expectations upon them. Both of them had different visions in mind when they drafted a custody agreement worded so broadly that neither thinks they broke it. Sally still knows very little Arabic. Neither understood that laws are different country by country and may have no international standing. Neither of them understood how to talk to each other across the divide of their different emotional expressions.
As Sally says, it’s all because of those childhood peas: that primal urge to not upset the apple cart. While the peas remain unspilt, the quiet is easily misconstrued as love, peace, stability – heck, whatever we want it to be.
I think it takes a brave person to talk about what others perceive as mistakes, and Sally is among the bravest. Brendan is a wonderful man for standing by his woman, for encouraging her to be herself, and for loving her regardless. Even Ali, though this isn’t his story, obviously loves his children.
I can only hope this story has a happy ending soon.
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