A little over a week ago, one of my very besties had her first published novel released to the world.
THE GIRL BEFORE, by Rena Olsen, is an amazing piece of literature for many reasons.
This post contains slight spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet and are wanting to, I suggest you head to Amazon, Target (or Target.com), or Barnes & Noble (or bn.com) and get your own copy. I believe you can read it safely without it giving away too much of the book.
This book is poignant and it deals with a hard, but extremely important topic that affects nearly every country in the world today, millions of people, including those in the United States. Years back, I blogged about the topic because it's so striking and important.
From the first page, each time I read it, I was hooked into the story.
But one thing, above all, really resonates with me, especially this most recent time I read it.
Clara is the leading lady in the book. It's her story. While I read, I found myself drawn deeply to her, becoming attached, empathizing with her so strongly that I could feel it in my core.
A few days past my most recent read through the book, a friend told me that I reminded her of Clara. Something struck me there, and it's been on my mind since.
I am not Clara, but yet, I am.
As many know, I've been through the control, manipulation, mind games, deceit, betrayal, neglect, and abandonment of a former husband who disappeared over a year ago from mine and my childrens' lives.
As I trudged through the loss, the further down the road I traveled, the more lies I uncovered, the more crazy plot twists and details I unveiled, the more widespread effects of his choices I understood, and the more overwhelmed and confused I became.
But I never gave up hope. I never stopped believing in the good. I never stopped holding onto faith. I never gave up on love.
I saw how naive I was at times for believing in him so deeply, and for allowing myself to be convinced he was a good person making bad decisions "to benefit his family" as he claimed. I forgave him multiple times and took him back. I allowed myself to take a stand for him, beside him, helping him fight his battles and clean up his messes when he lead me to believe it was necessary because he couldn't do it himself. I allowed myself to believe in his web of lies so strongly that I would stand up for him and fight for others to believe, too.
I trusted. I believed it was okay. I believed I was doing the right thing.
But then my world shattered and he was gone and I began to see the truth, and see the world so much more clearly.
I began to understand that I loved him deeply, but I didn't love the things he did or who he became. I understood I could love and let him go.
I began to see my own strength. I began to relax and worry less. I began to gain control.
And then, I did what I never thought I would do. I stood up against him, fighting for myself and my children. I fought for him to be held responsible, all on his own, for the things that he did.
Because it wasn't me. I may have been there, but it wasn't me and they weren't my messes.
I stopped fighting so hard to hold him close and fought to let him go.
So much of what I believed to be true and real wasn't. I could be cynical and jaded. I could be bitter and spiteful. I could have given up on hope and what's good.
But I didn't.
Good things can come from the bad things of the past.
Today, I'm a new woman. I'm the lone parent and provider of my household. God is the foundation of our home and I'm the pillar of our family. I walk with my head held high, with joy in my heart, hope in my soul, even on the saddest or loneliest days.
Because I am Clara, even if I'm not.
When I briefly discussed this with my friend, the author, she said this.
"I hope a lot of women in those sorts of relationships (like mine) will find a way to relate to Clara."
I think that's largely the beauty of the book. She's taken a serious subject (that you should read the book to learn more about, as I am not telling you exactly what the subject is here), pulled at your heart and caused your mind to think about it. It should anger you and stir within you the desire for action, really. It should make you uncomfortable and passionate.
But, she also introduces you to this beautiful brown haired, green eyed, hopeful, confused, strong, brave woman that I believe so many can relate to. While their stories are likely to be quite different, there's going to be countless women who see themselves in th pages. Perhaps they'll only be at the beginning of her story, or perhaps they'll be more toward the last chapters or somewhere in between. If they're only at the beginning, I hope at the end of the book they see hope and the promise of better tomorrows. And, if they're where I am, more toward the last chapter of the harrowing story, they'll be able to look back and see just how far they, and Clara, have come.
While my friend has no idea I wrote this (or at least doesn't know I am writing it but will soon), I urge you to check out her site: http://www.renaolsen.com for more info and links to be in touch with her.