Reading Lynn C. Tolson's memoir Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story, and feeling the relentless deluge of misfortune is like traveling through a desert thunderstorm. In the book, as in the desert, the sun comes out at the end and hope reigns.
Author Tolson draws you into her world on the first page with clear setting details of the outer storm and candid inner monologue of the despair that urges her to end her life. As readers experience Lynn's desperate plight, two questions emerge: 1. Will she pull herself out of deep depression? and 2. What in her experience of life brought her to this desperate situation?
In subsequent chapters I felt as though I was struggling through perils with Lynn. I experienced the shock and shame of recalling incestuous acts, the guilt of addictions and the empty sense of self that couldn't walk away from a destructive and violent partner.
Lynn aptly shows readers the slow steady process of recovery of a positive sense of self and an empowered definition of personhood. She doesn't tread lightly on her shortcomings or on the abusive family relationships that ate away at her self respect. With keenly honed writing the author carries the reader with her up the arduous route to recovery. In the end, we feel her hope and her reclaimed and empowered sense of self.
As one who grew up in an incestuous situation, I highly recommend Beyond the Tears to other survivors and their supporters. Partners of survivors can gain insights that will benefit their relationships. Lynn's narrative account of recovery can reveal to therapists information that their clients may resist sharing. Student's training to counsel sexual abuse survivors can see in advance the challenges they may encounter. Families of survivors benefit from reading a first person account of the difficulties a victim faces.
Individuals who are not personally acquainted with a survivor will glean valuable insights to the long term consequences and costs of childhood sexual abuse. In our society that has nurtured a taboo of silence on the subject for centuries; we diminish the pain and angst of innocent victims. We fail to recognize the physical and mental manifestations of sexual victims. Authors like Ms. Tolson help us to take a realistic look at what our culture is promoting by not speaking candidly about sexual violence.
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