Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson

A woman’s fortunate escape from a murderous ex-boyfriend colors the rest of her life

Lacy, a 19 year old college student, after a conservative childhood and a somewhat wild adolescence, begins a lengthy affair with her 38 year old Spanish instructor.  They move in together, he takes her to Europe, he educates her.  However, he is controlling and when he gets physical one too many times she leaves, returning with her father and a policeman to help reclaim her belongings.  That doesn’t sit well, and soon afterwards, the boyfriend meets her on the street, requesting a ride.  She agrees, but then he holds a stun gun to her neck, blindfolds her, brings her to a sound proof room, strips her, rapes her, then chains her naked to a chair.  Severely underestimating her persistence, however, he leaves the apartment (to get an alibi, he says), and she breaks her bonds and escapes to the police station.  Afterwards, he runs to Venezuela, where he cannot be extradited, although he does find time to send periodic emails asking her to drop the charges.  Most of the memoir concerns her attempt to create a normal life on “the other side.”

This memoir fell between two stools, I think, not really succeeding as a purely prurient thriller, (since there were too many momentum sapping chunks of “theory”) and then not really being a successful launch pad for deeper more philosophical musings on such subjects as power dynamics, family history and feminism. Although the book succeeded as a treatise on memory – for me that was almost the most interesting part of the book.  I learned a lot.  I disliked the labeling of each character: “The Older Sister”, “The Younger Sister”, “The Man I Used to Live With.”  Her description of her mother rang a little false to me – the reader infers Lacy had been a handful, but I didn’t really feel/understand that from the narrative.  Overall, the memoir reminded me of Room, which also had a prurient hook, but then played with concepts such as language and myth as well as displaying high technical writing skills.

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