Rachel Thompson’s fierce determination to survive is the key note in this poignant account of the violence she endured and the repercussions that followed – hours, weeks, months, years and decades later.
The author lives the life of a normal, happy girl until she turns 11. That’s when a new neighbor, a married U.S. Army man with a wife and five kids, moves next door. He’s friendly, popular, and he loves to play with his kids and their neighborhood friends, including her. He assaults Thompson and her life changes forever from that moment forward.
She doesn’t know how to cope and is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame. Her parents don’t know how to cope, either, and minimize things by telling everyone that she is “fine.” The problem: Thompson isn’t “fine” at all. To the outside world, she becomes the perfect student yet, inwardly, she withdraws into a world of books and music. In time, she dissociates from the assaults, but memory triggers cause panic attacks, PTSD, depression, headaches, anxiety – she even considers suicide.
BROKEN PLACES sprinkles prose and poems about sexual abuse, powerful emotions, and love and loss, which holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Reading the book feels like peeking into someone’s personal diary because the author chooses to write “something you’d never show your mother or father.”
Thompson’s style is honest and incisive: “Happiness is hard to recognize because it leaves no scars. Pain leaves evidence – we know where we’ve been.” Because she’s a survivor, she recognizes that quality in others: “We look at your eyes. The eyes carry the wounds. The eyes know damage. Damaged people recognize other damaged people, and we let you in.”
One can’t help but empathize with the author and admire her courage in expressing her thoughts and strong feelings about the perpetrator of the crime and what happened to her.
Through therapy, writing and living, the author finds some measure of healing and her book may well provide comfort and healing for others, though be forewarned: Thompson’s memoir is so powerful that it’s hard to digest in one sitting — the story is best taken in small sips. The book concludes with an excellent resource guide for sexual abuse survivors and an excerpt from another book by the author.
BROKEN PLACES succeeds as the gritty memoir of a woman who was sexually assaulted when she was young. The author’s story of survival is candid with an unexpected ending.