Trigger Warning: abuse.
I’ve put off reviewing At Least He Wasn’t Hitting You by Greg McVicker for a lot longer than I normally would due to the nature of the book and the volatile, sensitive topic that it discusses. Normally, this would not be a huge issue for me as I find these books important, but unfortunately, At Least He Wasn’t Hitting You has a lot of problems. And this isn’t something I like to say about personal memoirs detailing the abuse that a person had to deal with for a period of their lifetime, especially as I have been through that myself. And I was excited to see this book, to have a memoir out there that would shed light on the fact that physical abuse is not the only form of abuse in a relationship. The damage that a person can cause to another over emotional abuse is real and it’s imperative, in my opinion, that more people are made aware of this fact. Often times people claim that abuse is not abuse when a person is not being beaten, which could not be farther from the truth. And while I do believe that society as a whole is becoming more aware, I still feel that it’s important to continue that path.
At Least He Wasn’t Hitting You, while I’m sure was important and therapeutic to the victim, doesn’t do a great job of continuing this education for two reasons: the first, and hardest part for me to read, lies in the narrator’s imagining of what her husband could do to her or might be planning to do to her and the second comes from the author, a second party two whom she told her story who did an awful job of writing it for her. Now, I would never want to discount the things that a victim has been through, especially after such traumatic events have already been perpetuated in a large portion of their life. Let me be perfectly clear about the fact the horrors of the emotional abuse that this woman suffered are unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of her husband and the lack of support she found in those around her is despicable.
When recounting the events of past abuse, to add in scenes–and in this case I am referring to one scene in particular–where the person being abused is describing something that they could have seen happening and believed was a very real possibility in a way that makes it sound very real is adding a barbarism to the abuser that may or may not be there. It brings in a question of doubt rather than setting forth actual facts. And this is not to say I discount what she felt or believed nor that I disagree with the emotion of the moment, but rather that it is unnecessary to the point that it a) will make readers more uncomfortable for little reason, and b) can lead to others discrediting them for bringing it up in the first place which is precisely what one does not want when recounting truths of abuse. An actual fact would be the fact that she saw a gun. But following that with a deeply emotional rendition of the victim feeling as though she is already feeling the wound of a gunshot and to punctuate it with the repetition of “bang…bang…bang” as she imagines her husband shooting her when he never physically did so to exaggerate the moment and what she was feeling almost misrepresents everything that happened.
And I had a rough time with this not only because of the embellished descriptions that peppered themselves throughout the course of the book, but because it was readily apparent at times that the author was using extravagant language and exaggerated comparisons in order to make an already horrendous experience seem worse than it was and there was absolutely no need for it. This experience was already horrendously terrible and that was easily acknowledgeable without the author trying to shove it into our faces. And I’m not sure if this was a fault of the author’s poor writing or the victim’s poor recounting. This wasn’t a poem about someone going through emotional abuse and I don’t know why it was very nearly treated as such.
And finally, the book as a whole was just poorly written but it also went so far as to include some absolutely ludicrous and disturbing nonsense about a psychic experience in which the author apparently helped the victim speak to her now deceased abuser about their relationship and air all the complaints and horrors she felt she went through as his wife. This is the moment where I basically checked out, deciding then and there that this was perhaps the worst person possible to have written the book. I cannot believe the nonsense that was included at the end, this weird and disturbing description of feeling the abusive husband’s presence within his body in a way that allowed him to relay messages from the victim to said husband. What could have been an insightful look into what people in emotionally abusive relationships have to suffer through became something almost exaggerated and that bit at the end was just unbelievably ridiculous.
And I feel truly devastated that this is the way I have left the book feeling because I do not in any way wish to leave a book about a topic this sensitive in this manner. I do not want the survivor of the abuse to have poor experiences after recounting her story. And hopefully, she doesn’t. Regardless, I cannot quite get past how much these pieces of the book troubled me.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.