Tuesday, April 9, 2013

From Left to Write: Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

As you might have noticed, there's a button on my side bar saying I am a From Left to Write contributor. Well it's finally time to write my first post! From Left to Write is a book club of sorts, where participating blogs dedicate one post a month to which ever book was selected. Rather than writing a traditional review we are to supposed to write about our own life experiences using the book as inspiration. As a member I did receive a free copy for this purpose.

This month the book is Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton. I really enjoyed it especially since it was written in second person which is a bit unusual. I struggled a bit with what I would write about as I don't have any kids, I've never been in any disaster on the scale of a fire, I've never had an out of body experience, I don't know much about private schools in England... I just couldn't relate very much. Thankfully near the end of the book I found my answer, something I could relate too so well I just had to share. As such there will be some spoilers but I'll try to be as vague as possible since this is a mystery after all. =)

In the book a fire is started at the main character's children's school and her daughter is fatally injured. The police suspect arson and now the mother and her police officer SIL are on a quest to find out whodunit. When the culprit was reveled* the mother just could not believe it. She had suspected domestic abuse within the culprit's family, but definitely not from the culprit themselves. She was supposed to be the abused most definitely not the abuser!  The mother is in such shock and cannot rectify the person she has known into the person she is.
As they speak it's as if a painting-by-numbers portrait is being filled in, one color at a time.
But I won't look at their vicious portrait of my friend.
Because [culprit]'s known [daughter] since she was a girl of four. She's heard me talk about her and [son], all the time. She knows how much I love them.
She's my friend and I trust her.
I can't add this to what has happened.
I can't.
In the end the mother comes to the conclusion, "I have never known her." This is real to me. I know what that's like, not from the mother's perspective but as the culprit's family. I cannot count the times I have heard similar disbelief when I speak about my dad as he really is. You see, my dad is a sociopath.

My father literally doesn't have a conscience. He doesn't feel empathy. He is cruel to those he is supposed to love while appearing to be "The World's Greatest Dad" to the outside world. He painted a picture of our home life with him as the victim all the while mentally abusing us. People always took his side. Somehow if I would mention what was really going on, I was mistaken. I was acting out. I was being deceiving. People could not imagine my dad the way I knew him so I must be the one lying.

When he started messing around with a girl only a year older than me and my parents got divorced, somehow my mother was the bad guy. When she took him to court for not paying child support she was a greedy you-know-what. When she made a fuss because he wouldn't tell her the address to his studio apartment where my little sister was sleeping in the same room with some random male roommate, she was being nosy. Even though he told everyone he worked with that he only had two daughters, he bought my older sister a car but wouldn't give me a $50 loan, he insisted on going to the girl I mentioned above's high school graduation even though I was required to be there as a member of the band, I somehow broke my father's heart by removing him from my life entirely. If we happen to be in the same place with other people around, he still acts all pitiful because I won't give him the time of day. It's disgusting and other people won't see it because then they have to admit he's been working them too. People like him aren't supposed to exist, and if they do they are the serial killers taking lives of other people's children in far off places. They aren't here, hiding in plain sight. We don't know them. If we did, we would be able to see through them because we aren't as gullible as those other people. Admitting that someone who has been our friend is actually a monster makes our world a very scary place and people are reluctant to even entertain the idea.

Having lived this I try to keep an open mind. If someone tells me something about a friend that seems out of character, I don't automatically believe them but I don't dismiss the possibility either. It might be hard to believe someone I care about is secretly viscous but I know sometimes they are. I won't take someone's side in an argument just because I've known them longer or believe I know them better. I wish more people would have done that in my own life.

*It turns out she wan't the real arsonist anyway but the fact is she could have been, people like her are the "bad guys" everyday, so I still thought it would be a good jumping off point.

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