Friday, January 23, 2009

If I am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus

This was a strange little book. I picked it up after reading the description and learning that the title was derived from a letter that was written by the author's sister; the letter was found in Amy Latus's desk at work following her disappearance. Rather than a book solely devoted to her sister's story, however, the author also uses this opportunity to share her own experiences with domestic violence.

Amy and Janine grew up in a traditional family, 2 of 5 children. While their mother remained a strong support for the girls their entire lives, their father was more on the creepy side, using inappropriate touches and comments towards his female children, eventually completely alienating them from him. Janine moves out of the house prior to finishing high school, yet manages to graduate and go on to college. Amy, the baby of the family, remains at home with her increasingly unhappy parents.

As the girls grow up and move into serious relationships, they find themselves in a pattern of behavior that is all too common in abusive partnerships - when things are good they're great; but when they are bad, they are dangerously bad. Janine leaves one abusive relationship for a charming, handsome doctor, who she marries; Amy marries an alcoholic who she ends up supporting most of the length of their marriage. One of the reasons Amy's story is such a tragedy is that she left this bad marriage, started taking care of herself, attended graduate school and was enjoying her life - only to have the whole cycle start over again when she became involved with an ex-con named Ron Ball.

I expected this to be a book about Amy, but it was mostly about Janine and her own abusive relationship. I found it an interesting comparison, as Janine was able to leave her abusive relationship right around the time Amy was murdered. This book is difficult to read - the pain and humiliation endured by these two women will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Amy's story will live on through this book and hopefully inspire others to break the cycle of abuse.

If you or someone you know is a victim of family violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). This is a 24 hour hotline accessible from all 50 states that can provide you with information on local programs and shelters.

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