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Friday, June 20, 2008

Stand A Powerful Little Book

Stand by Debbie Williamson is one of those books that make you want to grab your kids, hug them as hard as you can, and tell them how much you love them. Like Dave Pelzer's memoirs, Williamson's details a life of neglect, abuse and family dysfunctionality. Her story compels in the same way a roadside accident does - morbid curiosity makes us stare, empathy makes us shake our heads, and relief lets us flee, thanking God that we escaped similar tragedy.

Debbie's story begins long before her birth. Stand tells the stories of her mother and grandmother - two women who suffer from parental neglect as well as emotional and sexual abuse. The family's horrific "legacy" persists into Debbie's generation. Not only is she raped by a trusted uncle, but her mother ignores her, and both parents cheat on each other repeatedly. Her home life in shambles, Debbie turns to drugs, sex, and partying to fill up her life. Not surprisingly, she finds herself pregnant at 16.

Because it is "the right thing to do," the young couple marry. At first, Debbie adores her new life as a wife and mother. It's not long, however, before the union begins deteriorating. Joe turns to alcohol and prostitutes to escape the prison of married life. At home with her children all day, Debbie suffers from depression, which is only exacerbated by the daily insults Joe screams at her. Overwhelmed by both her past and her present, she loses control. When she owns up to how much time she's spending drinking, arguing with her husband, yelling at her kids, and sleeping around, Debbie realizes she's become the one thing she never wanted to be - her mother.

Finally at the end of her rope, Debbie enrolls in a kind of therapy boot camp. The program empowers her, giving her the strength to overcome her struggles. It doesn't make her life perfect, but it marks the beginning of a bright, new future.

On her website, Debbie explains that her original intention was to write out her experiences as a sort of journal for her children. Stand certainly reads more like a diary - with grammatical errors; fluctuating tense, shifting points of view; and lack of organization - than a polished book. Simple and heartfelt, Debbie's words do get the message across, just not with the panache of a well-written memoir. It also has a psychic/voices of the dead aspect that tarnishes the author's credibility - at least for those of us who don't believe in such things.

What I do admire about this book is Debbie's honesty. She explains on her website how reluctant she was to share her story with the world. Although she didn't want her family to suffer from the exposure of its dark secrets, she bravely took the risk. She doesn't sugarcoat her experiences or try to make herself look like the perfect wife and mother. Admittedly, she lays much of the blame for her family's dysfunctionality on the males, but she doesn't sugarcoat her own shortcomings either. She confesses that not all of her relationships have healed, but that through forgiveness, honesty and time, she's sure they will. The chapter on forgiveness particularly moved me. In Debbie's words:

He wasn't a monster to me anymore. Instead, he became a little person who had made a horrible mistake. I forgave him. I didn't have to ask God anymore how to forgive. I finally knew how (131).

Child abuse does not rank highly on my list of Favorite Subjects to Read About, so I haven't read a lot of books like Stand. I have no doubt there are better-written books on the subject. However, I don't regret reading this one. It could use some serious editing, but all in all, it's a pretty powerful little book.

Grade: B-

(Book Image from Barnes & Noble)


  1. I read another review of this one earlier this evening. It does sound like a difficult book to read and I imagine it was difficult for the author to write as well.

  2. I just found your blog... it is a delicious find! I am excited to go cruise your archives!


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