Following the Story

Following the Story

I was thinking more about the review from the Paranormal Romance guild of “Dream Family” and I honestly can say it doesn’t upset me.  This is the last paragraph of the review:

I found this story at times very unrealistic, and there were way too many dream sequences.  The whole story revolved around Sara and her adjustment to being in jail, only she wasn’t even there a whole day. In addition, Sara came out a broken woman which was a total opposite of the woman who in the last book went face to face with Paul Sorrentino.  I am sure that being in prison is not a cake walk, but I think the author went overboard with Sara.  I also thought the book was too long and drawn out.

My response would be that, clearly in the case of this reviewer, I didn’t do a good enough job conveying what Sara was feeling and how she was processing what was happening to her.  As I was writing the book, it did worry me that readers might react exactly like this – “it was only one night in jail, why is it such a big deal?”  But what i realized as I went on was, that is the story.  It’s a big deal to Sara.  Everyone has their own weak points, and everyone reacts differently when faced with a situation that’s completely outside of their experience, one that turns everything they understood about the world upside down (in this case, Sara’s belief that the police are there to protect her; that because she’s law-abiding and a good person, she could never find herself in jail).  I tried to point the way to this in the story, by showing how confused Sara was that there was actual, physical evidence of the crime she was accused of – her signatures on her prescription pads, and how that undermined her confidence and her hope of getting out.  That, combined with the constant physical loss of freedom (being handcuffed for so many hours in a row, being locked in a cell when she’s never even been acidentally locked in a cellar or anything in her entire life), and the slow removal of her identity – having her wedding ring removed, having a barcode put on her, etc all worked to push Sara into a desperate and hopeless place she’d never been in before. 

It’s the combination of all the factors that really breaks Sara.  If the arrest had been for something she knew she could fight, or that wasn’t a major felony, she would probably have been able to endure it a lot better – if she was picked up for DUI, or as a matter of mistaken identity, she would still have suffered, but she wouldn’t have lost hope – she would have, at least mentally, fought back, because she would have known she could fight back. 

The final straw comes with the cavity search.  Sara experiences it, in the end, as a sexual assault.  To her, it’s not merely a search, not just a matter of procedure.  She’s forced against her will to strip in front of strangers, and to allow them to touch her in the most intimate, private place, without her consent.  I tried to make that very clear.

So, to me, that’s the plot of the book.  Sara is striped of her identity one layer at a time, physically abused (yes, I think keeping someone tightly handcuffed behind their back for hours on end us absolutely physical abuse, and in researching for the book, I came across quite a bit of legal opinion that agrees with that viewpoint), confronted with the possibility of ten years in prison, forced to accept that one of her trusted employees has utterly betrayed her, and before it’s all done she’s sexually assaulted.  That all happens by chapter two, and it completely breaks her.  The rest of the book is how she recovers from that, how she finds her way back to herself. 

I think that’s a solid plot, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable that such an experience could drive someone to the point where they lose all hope and are an empty shell of themselves.  Obviously, at least to one reader, I didn’t do a good enough job of bringing that out, and that’s a completely fair criticism; I don’t agree with it, but the book is out of my hands, and it’s up to readers to judge for themselves whether I accomplished what I tried to do, or not.


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