Normally stories about domestic abuse follow the same pattern: it seems good at the beginning, then something changes and the abuser appears until the abused can find a way out. While this general narrative arc is also used in this novel, Priscilla Bennett’s Something To Be Brave For, the author uses interesting, nuanced language to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the story. The novel starts with a snippet of a scene that is essentially the turning point of the novel: the main character, written in the empathy-inducing second person, is hiding from her abusive husband under the piano. From there, the story backs up to the first time they met, and it continues chronologically all the way through the end of their relationship years later.
Personally, I love knowing the ending (or the middle, in this case) before I start the story. It intrigues me to see how current events unfold to produce the ending that I already know. This technique is especially effective in this novel: since you already know what happens at the height of his abuse, you see the warning signs coming. At some points, you see things the protagonist, Katie, either doesn’t notice or dismisses as a one-time thing. But since you know the ending, you know better, that she should be wary or even run away. It effectively heightens the tension throughout the entire novel.
My favorite character was Gillian, Katie’s childhood friend who is one of Claude’s (Katie’s husband’s) coworkers. She and Katie have a healthy friendship when they reunite at the beginning of the story, and more importantly, Gillian sticks around when things go south. Katie’s relationship is keeping her from her dreams, and ends up being full of emotional, mental, and physical domestic abuse, but Gillian is there for her every step of the way. Even in the first chapter, when we see the events that lead up to the abuse in the prologue, Gillian asks Katie if everything is ok, alluding to the abuse she knows Katie endures, and setting up her character for the rest of the novel. It’s always important to have female friendship showcased in novels, but it is especially notable in this novel because of the precision with which it is executed.
I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a very real, but ultimately uplifting account of domestic abuse. It is very realistic, and should probably be accompanied by a warning because of the themes and some explicit and graphic scenes, but as long as that doesn’t bother you I would highly recommend it. 4.5/5 stars.
Something To Be Brave For will be published today, April 3, 2017. Look for it on Amazon