Oh, lambs. SUCH a good book. Seriously, SUCH a good book. I'm telling you right now- book club read.
Etched On Me - Jenn Crowell
On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she's secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.
Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story, until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.
Can I tell you right now that I couldn't put this book down? I was drawn in immediately to poor Lesley's story of sexual incest abuse. That's what it boils down to and basically how the entire system basically fails her.
Lesley is sexually abused by her father for years and after realizing her mother isn't going to help her, she decides to run away and find help. She finds a sympathetic case worker that gets her set up in a hostel and over time, she begins to cut herself to cope with what her life has turned into. It's one thing to get a person out of that situation, but to provide absolutely no support for the mental anguish she's obviously dealing with, is almost cruel. Then one day she goes too far with the cutting and she ends up in ICU and then through various psychiatric hospitals. Eventually, she is able to overcome her demons and completes her schooling and everyone applauds her on being a survivor, a success story for them all.
Until one day she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. And as it states at the very beginning of the book, she wants this baby. She wants this baby so much it's almost an intangible feeling yet it's there and it's like her life line. It's the one thing in life she has to forever cling to. All of the people who regale her as a success story now question her ability to be a good mother and are actively trying to relinquish her rights.
I won't tell you if she is able to keep her child or if her child remains in the care of the surrogate family- it ruins the entire thing. What I will tell you is that this book will horrify you, it will make you want to scream on Lesley's behalf, you equally want to shake her and hug her, and you just want something good to happen to her. Just absolutely anything good because dammit, she deserves it. If being a mother is going to be the light of her life, then why can't she have that? Well, we learn more about her time in psychiatric care and all of the facets of what sexual abuse does to a person so you find yourself rooting for both sides at time.
It's a really amazing book. I can only imagine the conversations book clubs would have about this because this is something that can be a really polarizing topic for people. Even I found myself struggling through parts when I would flip flop my opinions and it's never a cut and dry situation. Talk about blurred lines, really. Not to mention, the writing? Amazing. Jenn Crowell gets you right there and you feel like you are literally watching this play out in front of you versus words on a page.
I absolutely, totally recommend this book. Seriously. Get this on your to-read list, it's pretty gripping.