Saturday, 30 April 2016

Still Room for Hope: A Book Review

I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I requested this book on Net Galley. When I received it, I couldn't help but think, "Do I really want to read this?" And I continued to think that even after I started reading it. And I considered quitting. It was too disturbing, too graphic. But I persisted, because the title and the blurbs on the jacket led me to believe that there was a happy ending. As the author herself would say, "There is an 'after'."
This book is the true story of a young woman who, at the age of 16, was drugged and subjected to a particularly brutal gang rape by three of her male "friends." She remembered virtually nothing of the incident, but the perpetrators videotaped it, and the tape made it's way into the hands of the police. Through the resulting two court cases, she was badgered, demeaned and emotionally beaten up by the team of lawyers hired for the defense, while both she and her family were subject to stalking and harassment from minions hired by the wealthy and prominent father of one of the perpetrators. Her friends even testified against her in the courtcase. To escape the emotional misery, she turned to alcohol and drugs, eventually becoming a methamphetamine addict. She lied, stole and cheated to maintain her drug habit. That's the first half of the book. It was quite horrible. 
But the remainder of the book tells the story of how she got herself into rehab, got clean and surrendered her heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and now lives a life of joy and victory. She has found meaning in what she endured by becoming a public speaker and a certified sexual assault victim advocate. She admits that she still has bad days, some of them really bad, but she can work through them with her relationship with God. She also is choosing to forgive the perpatrators, not condoning what they have done, but not living a life of bitterness either or allowing the assault to shape the rest of her life. 
The author's writing style is very readable, but, for the average reader like me, I cannot honestly recommend this book. I found the first half just too disturbing. As a woman, and the mother of a daughter, I was wishing for some sort of vigilante group to step in where the justice system failed. And failed it did: the perpetrators of this heinous crime were sentenced to only 6 years each, and got out after serving 3. I found myself seething with impotent rage. However, this woman's story ultimately is an inspiration and I think could be especially beneficial to those who have endured similar outrages. And I believe that's why she wrote it: to let other survivors know that what happened to them does not have to define them for the rest of their lives, that there is an 'after,' as she says, that there is "still room for hope." 
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Now that I've completed the main part of this book review, I want to address a theological issue regarding the author's "visit" with her dead grandfather, found on page 153. While the idea that we go straight to heaven (or hell) when we die is a commonly accepted belief, it is not a Biblical one. The Bible tells us that the dead "know nothing," that death is a "sleep," and that we won't "wake up" again until the resurrection at Jesus' return. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; John 11:11-14; Job 14:12; 2 Peter 3:10). As a matter of fact, the Bible condemns anyone who tries to communicate with the dead. (Leviticus 20:27). So, it definitely was not her grandfather she was communicating with. For more information on this topic, please refer to "Are the Dead Really Dead?" or "Spirits of the Dead". Or you can click on the "Ghost Truth" link in the sidebar on the right of this page.