The fine folks at Hyperion Books contacted me about doing a review of Ten Points, by Bill Strickland. They even sent me a free copy of the book to review on the blog.
Disclaimer, they did send me a free book, on the other hand, now that I’ve read and reviewed it, I’ll be running a contest, of some sort, in the near future to give the book away, so I’m not really getting any benefit from agreeing to review it, aside from reading it for free.
Discalimer #2, I’m not a book reviewer by profession, nor do I claim to be one, so remember, this isn’t the New york Times Review, just one survivor’s opinion. 🙂
First off let me say this about the book. If you’re looking for the typical child abuse memoir, with the typical chronology of the abusive childhood, followed by the troubled years, followed by a long journey of healing, you will be disappointed by this book. On the other hand, that’s exactly what I liked about this story. This wasn’t yet another memoir about the struggles of healing from a broken childhood, this was a story set during one particular bike racing season, when a 39 year old man takes on the physical challenge of trying to score ten points in the weekly races at the request of his daughter.
It’s a story about working towards a difficult goal, and learning about yourself in the process. In this case, it’s learning to identify, and overcome, the “monster” that rages inside of abuse victims.
Now, granted, as a fellow 39 year old who has been interested in bike racing since I was a little kid and used to watch the Tour de France on televison, obviously the story was going to hold my attention. The descriptions of riding in the pack, or the physical demands of sprinting toward a finish line are told in such detail that I can easily identify with the struggle. But even if you’re not all that interested in bike racing, I think the all too common themes of struggle, of identifying how those things you’ve tried so hard to put behind you still affect you on a daily basis, and of learning to live with them, will be useful to survivors of all types.
For example, one of the themes that struck me as I read this story is the fear and shame of failing at a goal. Many survivors, myself included, struggle with failure in ways that other people don’t seem to comprehend. Even the smallest project can become a source of great frustration, even rage, when we are unable to complete it, or the task will simply consume us until it is completed, no matter how unimportant it may really be. Many survivors live with a very strong sense of shame about what happened to them, as if their failure was a cause of being abused as much, if not more than, the abuser. Failing at any task, no matter how small, means reliving all that shame that has built up over the years in the present. Shame is a very powerful emotion, and the avoidance of shame is a very powerful motivator. To some extent that is natural, no one wants to fail at any task. To the shamed survivor though, it’s not just about this one task. The current task is a symbol of all the shame and failure he/she has lived with for many years.
That’s the beauty of this story, because it does take place over one short period of time, and focusing on one task as symbolic of all the tasks that go into a life, it gives you insight into the inner workings of a survivor as he focuses on one task. It shows us, without any sugar coating, how painful abuse can be, even long after the actual abuse has stopped. More importantly, Bill shows us these details while weaving a wonderful tale of competition around all of these other themes. Well done.
Tags: BillStrickland, TenPoints, HyperionBooks