Degree of Normal – A Woman’s Journey Out of Childhood Abuse – A Book Review

Degree of Normal – A Woman’s Journey Out of Childhood Abuse

By: Barbara Harken

Reviewed by Richard R. Blake

Trauma Survival –  Finding Redemption, Recovery, and Wholeness

Barbara Harken has chosen the platform of a psychological novel to relate her story of surviving childhood trauma, a story of abuse, rejection, and healing. Jocelyn Quint (the fictional Barbara) suddenly finds her defense mechanisms crumbling. Mounting trials follow the unexpected death of her mother.

A chance meeting with a fellow student, Alex Strumme, and the discovery of an unknown aunt, Paula, at her mother’s funeral, gave Jocelyn a ray of hope, the first step in breaking down the walls of recovery, and the possibility of finding emotional healing through redemptive love and courage. Small steps forward, then, another relapse into the fear of trusting anyone, and taking back the identity image of shame, pain and unworthiness; a cycle, repeated, over and over again; a stark look into the dark side of the multifaceted power of PTSD over its victim.

Barbara’s writing is punctuated with well-chosen descriptive phrases, gripping realism, and heartbreaking reality. Her story depicts the true picture of what dissociative identity disorder and PTSD is like from the point of view of the survivor. The book is designed to help these victims discover their own voice, their own strength, and their own pathway to healing and recovery.

Harkens has an ability to reach deeply into the soul of the reader and draw out an unknown sense of empathy for the hurting with understanding, the ability to listen without judging, and to listen with understanding, leading to self-discovery, and a personal sense of wholeness.

Barbara Harkens teaches writing at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. This is her third novel

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Robert Reed Publishers, P. O. Box 1992, Bandon, Oregon 97411, 978-1944297107, $ 16.95, 264 Pages

Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run by Peter Likins – A Book Review

Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run

By: Peter Likins

Darby Book, LLC, 978-0997042344, $ 18.00, 2015, 264 pages

Reviewed By: Richard R Blake

Childhood Abuse, Retribution, Recovery, and Ultimate Redemption

Peter Likins “Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run” captures the plight of Kit Coyote traumatized by the beating, verbal abuse, and hatred of Jake Durkins his foster father. Durkins operated a chicken ranch and foster home in the semi-arid desert of Ajo, Arizona, located about 100 miles from Tucson.

Coach K. from nearby Tucson discovered Kit’s natural gift for running and took an interest in training him in the finer points of running competitively. When life at the chicken ranch became unbearable Kit escaped the horror of hatred and abuse and ran from Ajo to Tucson to the home of Coach K. and his wife Teresa. The Karangetti’s became his new foster parents. Opportunities opened up for Kit during high school in Tucson. He excelled in running and in the sport of wrestling and received a college scholarship at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. A series of bad choices, led to the need to establish a new identity for Coyote: he became a fugitive of the law and fled to California.

Likins writes with a rare sensitivity and gentle spirit that reveal a keen observation of the best in mankind even in light of exposure to the most deplorable and evil of others. This understanding allows him to use the elements of story and a fictional approach to become platform for issues of socio and culture inequity. The realism and striking imagery found in “Coyote Speaks” add a dimension to the elements of conflict and resolution used throughout the story to develop a suspenseful plot and to build character identity.

“Coyote Speaks – Cross Country Run” is timely, especially relevant in light of recent acts of random shooting, acts of terrorism, and international racial and religious tension. This is a poignant story of the impact of childhood trauma on life choices in times of personal crisis.

A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.




God Made All of Me – A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies – A Book Review

God Made All of Me – A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies

By: Justin S. and Lindsey A. Holcomb

David C. Cook Publisher

Illustrated by Trish Mahoney

A Natural Approach to a Sensitive Issue – Protecting Your Child from Sexual Abuse

“God Made All of Me” is an excellent resource guide for parents who want to safeguard and instruct their children against the repercussion and heartbreak of sexual abuse.

The reader is guided through exemplary discussions for encouraging communication with the child, while helping them understand, and identify, the private parts of their anatomy. They offer guidelines for opening conversation about:  appropriate touches, maintaining emotions, playing doctor, and identifying people they can trust.

A letter to parents or caregivers intrudes the book and explains the goal opens the book. Each of these helpful conversations are summarized for the parent in final nine final summary statements with explanations as to why each of these areas are important to protect you child from sexual abuse.

Trish Mahoney’s colorful illustrations re-enforce the goal of the authors: “to empower and train Christian communities to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse.”

Highly recommended.