Yes, I am back…after a long time. It’s been a hell of an entry to this new year of 2021. While the COVID-19 pandemic still exists, I have been dealing with other issues personally. But we have sailed through 2020 and I hope we sail through this year as well 💜
Emma Marshall is haunted by the trauma of her past. The night she ended her engagement to cheating fiancé, Beaux, was meant to be the night she took back control, but it was only the beginning of his true hold over her. Nine months after suffering an intimate assault by the man who pledged his life to her, Emma is doing – okay. At least, that’s what everyone thinks. No one knows the unspeakable truth of what happened between her and Beaux. It’s a secret Emma plans to carry to the grave, until Julian Cole moves in next door and opens Emma’s mind and heart to the possibility of love after betrayal. As the reporter and music executive grow closer in the music-filled city of New Orleans, Emma must risk everything to protect her newfound happiness. As Emma embarks on a dangerous journey to bring her ex to justice, the bounds of forgiveness are tested as more unspeakable truths come to light. Will Emma overcome her trauma and have her second chance at love? Or, will her past destroy her and everyone she holds dear?
Trigger Warnings: The book discussed in this post contain graphic scenes of Rape, attempted assault, Blood, Self-harm, suicide, child sexual abuse, and abortion.
As opposed to my usual book reviews, today I want to discuss some serious topics – Rape, Domestic Abuse, and Sexual Assault. These are some of the issues that we never feel comfortable discussing nor do we feel comfortable reading about them. Even when we read books that claim to address these subjects, most fail to do so. Traumatic events are difficult to re-imagine, let alone write about them. Most importantly, the experiences differ from person to person and can never be put into a box and labeled. That’s the truth about unspeakable things.
Emily A. Myers shares one such story in her book The Truth About Unspeakable Things. Myers highlights all the preceding events and the telltale signs that lead up to the traumatic event and the aftermath of abuse. Is it ever possible to acknowledge the reality of the event and start afresh?
Emma Marshall never saw it coming. Nobody does, honestly. How many times do we hear people say how it all started all nice. How caring their partner was. How they laughed, had fun, drank wine, dined in the best restaurants, and talked about nothing and yet everything. But then slowly it transforms into something else…something toxic. You see them becoming possessive or careless, you find them cheating or they avoid you, you see their outbursts or you find them too calm, detached. While the signs are all there, it’s difficult to identify them because you are in love with this person. What if it’s all because of you? What if you did something wrong? That’s how the brain tricks you and the self-doubt creeps in. That’s how Emma felt when Beaux first slapped her.
Her first thought was, “why?” Her next thought, “why me?” And her third, “What did I do wrong?”
Emma and Beaux were a match made in heaven or that’s what everyone around them thought. Her mother was ecstatic because her daughter had finally done something “right”, caught a big fish like Beaux which she could brag about in her ladies’ meets. Emma and her mother never had a relationship, to begin with – not after Emma chose to stay in New Orleans after graduating, away from home. How could her daughter do that? How could she be so disobedient? That’s how Emma’s condescending mother saw her strong-willed daughter.
Emma stayed away from home and had to find ways to fend for herself. Thankfully, Mr. Turnip turned around for her and got her a job at Mr. Edgar’s family legacy, Lucid Records. After being estranged from her parents and feeling alienated throughout her childhood, Emma could finally see a silver lining. Soon she became a journalist and started working for The Hub, covering all about arts and culture. Life was all good – she had her chirpy friend, Kat; a loving boyfriend, Beaux; and her family had finally started to accept her, especially her mother. It all felt right and she decided to take the next step – marriage. She could picture herself as a family with Beaux but it all came crashing down when she discovered Beaux cheating on her.
That was it. She was done…but Beaux wasn’t.
One moment Emma is breaking her promise to marry Beaux and the next she is flat out on the bed enduring the pain. All it took was a second to turn this charismatic man into a feral animal. That’s how it is in real life too – everything changes within a second.
But the biggest challenge for Emma was to dream of a better life again and she did.
“Daring to dream is half the battle”
The scenes of abuse were right at the beginning which was completely unexpected and shocking, to say the least. The week was a stressful one for me and when I started reading The Unspeakable Things, it all felt too much. The struggles that Emma had to face in the aftermath were equally painful to read about. While physically she had recovered, mentally she was still battling to accept what had happened. Not only was she rejected by her family in a way but also asked to appease Beaux and marry him because men like him don’t come along twice. But this is the glaring truth, isn’t it? Oftentimes, it is the family of the victim who seeks to make peace with the assailant because prestige is an issue for them. “What will people think?”, “Log kya kahenge?”
While there is a romantic factor that comes into play later on in the novel, as Emma seeks to start a new life with Julian, Myers has done a brilliant job at highlighting the minute details and that’s what struck a chord with me. It was all subtly done and the “unspeakable things” were handled compassionately.
Rape, abuse, sexual assault are difficult topics to tackle with and society has instilled in us that talking about abuse openly is taboo. Why do you think there are so many loopholes in the judicial system and perpetrators roam around freely more often than not? Why do you think victims fear pressing charges on their assailant? Why do you think we have judges who suggest that the assaulter should marry his victim to maintain harmony? If you’re Indian, I am pretty sure you have heard of this incident. This is the society we live in but again, the society is not an isolated structure, it’s constructed of us, we are an equal contributor to what the society is today and how it thinks.
We have to keep asking questions repeatedly because the system isn’t going to change on its own.
Coming back to the book, the characters are complex. While you would think that Emma and Julian would be in the spotlight throughout the novel, that’s not the case. It’s in fact, Beaux. “It’s a vicious cycle of unending pain. Hurt people hurt people over and over again”, he said.
“We’re all monsters. We all play a role in someone else’s tragic story.”
But Emma chose to break that cycle by believing in herself and striving to get justice for what happened to her. And, Julian had only been a supporter so that Emma could venture into her quest of justice for her ex and herself.
Emma fought the battle and won. She permitted herself to start a new life filled with happiness.
“We’re always one choice, one day away from a completely different life.”
I am not going to pretend that this was an easy read. It was an extremely difficult book to read and quite triggering as well. I appreciate Emily for putting the trigger warnings upfront.
The Truth About Unspeakable Things definitely made me an emotional mess. It was overwhelming but I love how Emily dealt with serious topics like abuse without discrediting the psychological trauma that the victims have to endure and brought out a story of a survivor, rather than a victim.
It’s an important book and presents an overview of how the victimization begins and raises some very important and relevant questions about rape and the trauma associated with it. The entire story revolves around abuse, so, I would recommend readers to review the triggers before reading it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily A. Myers is a Women’s Fiction author based in Louisiana. Her debut novel, The Truth About Unspeakable Things, sets the tone for Emily’s future works as it follows a young woman’s journey through the dangerous pitfalls of adult relationships and the complexities of growing up. In addition to writing fiction, Emily also dedicates time to her blog, which helps other aspiring authors turn their passion into their profession, and her Facebook community for women in which she posts exclusive interviews with inspiring women from all areas of life.