Lily's Odyssey
by Carol Smallwood
All Things That Matter Press

"Denial, depression, and dissociation operate on a social as well as an individual level." -Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.

This startling psychological novel details an emotional life journey of a woman named Lily Alger from Nicolet City in the Midwest, who struggles with emotions from her childhood reflected into her older age. Victim of incest and emotional abuse, Lily tries to piece together the fragmented memories as to what happened to her with her uncle Walt, who raised her and her brother when their parents perished in a house fire. As Lily struggles to go through life and put together the pieces of her emotional puzzle, she encounters mostly cynicism and the sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality that comes with her strict Catholic upbringing.

Under the control of her abusive Uncle Walt and religious Aunt Hester, Lily is doomed to repeat the same destructive patterns when she marries Cal Hyde, a well-to-do, but again abusive, surgeon. Things escalate when Lily is continuously haunted by ghosts from her past and develops a drinking problem to cope. Several counseling sessions follow, but not being able to connect with her judgmental husband, who sides with her uncle in all things, Lily seeks a divorce. For this she is marked as "crazy and unstable" by her family and her tight-knit Catholic community.

As Lily seeks more counseling help throughout her adult life, various psychologists confirm that she was, indeed, a victim of incest. Lily is finally freed from her past when both her uncle and her ex-husband die, and she feels free enough to relate the long-suppressed details of her childhood to her two grown children and family. The reaction of her extended family is extremely sad. They hold her uncle and husband in a very high esteem and refuse to see how abusive they really were.

Smallwood's book is a testament as to what happens behind closed doors in some families, and how incest victims often blame themselves for what happened to them. This book will make you cry, laugh, and swear with balled fists, as Lily finally breaks free of the demons that kept her in denial.

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