"Am I crazy?" That was the question Sarah asked the doctor in front of her after having been admitted to the hospital three days ago. In a voice filled with compassion he replied that, no, she was not crazy, but she was in immense pain. Given the abuse and emotional trauma she had experienced in her life so far, this was almost an understatement.
In her poignant memoir Alvarez describes a childhood no one should have to experience. The oldest of three siblings, the author found herself trapped between a controlling and abusive mother and a father who preyed on her sexually. The former had experienced her own trauma both growing up and in her marriage, and her eldest daughter became a convenient whipping girl for her pain. The latter excused his incest with his daughter as an attempt to comfort her as he sensed she was hurting. Like most children, she lived for the moments when she saw true love and acceptance in their eyes, especially those of her mother. Unfortunately, those times were rare. For years she kept the anguish buried, but one day the emotional napalm flung upon her by those around her became too much to bear. Stripping off her clothes, she ran naked down the street like Kim Phuc, the Vietnamese nine-year-old whose agonized image inflamed the conscious of a nation. Alvarez's own agony was now in the open, but it was far from over.
Most of Alvarez's recollections from her childhood and early marriage are heart wrenching, but there is also triumph in her story. She gave her heart at an early age to Christ and readily attests to how Jesus' presence in her life sustained her through the hardships. Painful, candid, yet ultimately hopeful, her memoir is truly inspiring.