This novel about 15 year old Ashley Asher who escapes from six years of sexual abuse by her stepfather has to be fastest book I’ve finished reading ever since I became a mother!
Seriously, the unravelling of the story kept my eyes glued to the book for nearly four hours.
When I read about how a 9 year old girl plans on a daily basis how to avoid the stepfather her mother is infatuated with, I just had to find out how long:
a) the poor child could survive such physical, mental and sexual abuse
b) the mother finally finds out and does something about it
c) before someone finds out about the stepfather and beats the crap out of him or throws him to jail
In the first few pages, I am HORROR-STRUCK at how disgusting a paedophile can be when I read of how the stepfather “Charlie” punches a hole through the bathroom door and installs a transparent glass shower screen to peep at her when she showers.
Also, he goes home during the day as he knows that she’ll be back from school but her mother, a medical assistant, is at work.
Can you imagine a little girl who cannot relax in her own home after school for fear of her stepfather? Or even get a peaceful night’s sleep because every night, her stepfather will come looking for her after everyone is asleep?
Poor Ashley has to wrap herself up in her blankets (even in hot summers) and hide in her wardrobe, lying face down as quiet as a frightened mouse to avoid this predator. Sometimes, she even faints from the scorching heat!
One night, Ashley’s mother announces that she’s going to get some pizza and she has to stay home with her stepfather. Although Ashley insists on going with her mother, her mother refuses to take her along.
Needless to say, that terrifying night, fifteen year old Ashley (5 ft 3 in, 115 lbs) is chased around her house, grabbed, assaulted and violently raped by a laughing Charlie (6 ft, 275 lbs) who is armed with a water gun.
Poor Ashley blacks out when she is pinned down on the floor:
When I came to, I was lying on the floor of the guest room, curled up on my right side. A dresser was shoved up against the guest room door. There was a towel between the drawer and the bathroom door leading to my room. I don’t remember doing any of that. I shook my head slightly, trying to figure out what was going on. From the hallway, there was a voice. Charlie’s voice. It no longer had the high-pitched crazy sound to it. It pleaded.
“Kiddo, open the door. Please. Open the door. Please forgive me. Please. Slap my hands, Kiddo. Slap my hands.”
I leaned down close the mirror and looked deeply into my own eyes. There was no one in there.
After the trauma, Ashley tells her mother but is heartbroken when her mother’s first questions were whether
a) whether she had had sex with Charlie and
b ) if her stepfather called her by the pet names he’d use for her mother!
Ashley is completeley devastated when she finds a love note from her mother in a rare lunch pack, telling her:
Please apologize to Charlie. He would never do those things to you. Please. For me.
Then she drew a smiley face, more hearts and wrote Love, Mom. She had written little hearts instead of the letter o in Love and Mom. (
Luckily, her friend advises her to see their English teacher about this and soon, the teacher brings Ashley to the hospital for a check-up and Child Protective Services is called. Ashley’s biological father is also called to see if he would take her in while they investigate – if not, she would be placed under foster care.
Ashley’s father steps up to the plate (despite earlier references about him suffering from alcohol abuse and anger management problems). It is with her real father, his new wife and son that Ashley begins to heal.
What starts off as a slice-of-life into the horrifying nightmare of living with a paedophile, “Courage in Patience” builds up into a heartwarming story of courage, healing and hope. Ashley walks down a long and slow road to recovery but her hope, belief and trust in the human spirit, especially men, is renewed through her determined and loving father and his family.
The book also explores the different coming-of-age experiences of teenagers in Patience, whom Ashley encounters through the summer English class her stepmother teaches. She meets:
a) T.W. Griffin – an A-star student type who is under tremendous pressure to perform in football and studies,
b) Hector “Junior” Alvarez - the ” ‘Just Say No’ model for teenagers having sex” because at fifteen, he and his fourteen year old girlfriend became young parents to baby boy, Hector Alvarez III or “3″.
c) Kevin Cooper and Dub White two typical rednecks, who turn out surprisingly different by the end of the book
d) Zaquoiah or Z.Z., a black teenage girl whose grandmother inherited a white woman’s ancestral mansion, much to the disgust of the local community…
e) Roxanne - a quiet girl with a large, jagged scar across her mouth and face
“Courage in Patience” is a wonderfully titled book because it is about a town named Patience and it’s also about the role patience plays in self-healing, building friendships/relationships and changing people’s minds.
I strongly recommend this book to:
a) teenagers who are seeking to understand the trauma of sexual abuse OR who knows someone who has been sexually abused
b) teachers who are looking for a novel for classroom study of the themes of social issues, friendship, racial issues, mother-daughter or father-daughter relationships
c) librarians who are looking for socially-relevant books to expand their young adult section
Buy the book now:
Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum
No. of pages: 347
Publisher: Kunati Inc.
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