Plot: If I stay, he will kill me. If I leave, he’ll destroy Addie and Drew.
Jillian Kane appears to have it all – a successful career, a gorgeous home, a loving husband, and two wonderful children. The reality behind closed doors is something else entirely. For nine years, she has hid the bruises and the truth of her abusive marriage in order to protect Addie and Drew, knowing, if she left, Gordon would destroy her-destroy them.
When, in an act of desperation, she flees, her worst nightmare is realized, and she finds herself on the run with her two young children, no money, and no plan. With Gordon in hot pursuit, there is only one inescapable certainty: No matter where she goes, he will find her. Kill her. And take her children.
Review: Let me preface this by saying I work in both criminal justice and have experience in family and divorce law. And I have a lot of experience with domestic violence as part of both of those. My annoyance with this book is a combo of bad storytelling, annoying redemption arcs, and a COMPLETE lack of understanding of the family law and criminal justice system.
SPOILERS BELOW. I have a rant in me, and it’s going to necessitate spoilers.
The book starts pretty well- Jill is a battered wife. Her husband is a cop and hides the abuse well. She’s beaten down and desperate and not sure how to leave. Then she announces she wants to leave her husband. Unlike last time she did this, when he nearly killed her, he just….agrees. Then he locks her out of the house, cancels all her cards, and has her picked up on what the book wants you to believe is a bogus DUI charge.
Pet Peeve #1: Jill has a few drinks with a colleague/lover and then gets a message that she needs to pick up her kids. Since Gordon has been keeping her from them, she is eager to take this chance to see them. On the way home, with the kids in the car, she’s stopped by a cop and knows it’s because Gordon asked them to hassle her. The problem? She blows a .0815! The book treats this like a technicality and that Jill was perfectly fine. That’s just…inaccurate. For your average drinker, getting to a BAC of over .08 will involve feeling at the very least heavily buzzed. It’s not actually that easy to “accidentally” hit over the legal limit but still be totally sober unless you’re a heavier drinker. So no Jill, it’s a big deal you were driving legally drunk with your kids in the car!
More happens, Gordon kills Jill’s lover, and she takes the kids and runs because Gordon has submitted legal docs saying she’s a crazy evil mother and she thinks she’ll lose the kids. Her lawyer friend agrees.
Pet Peeve #2: THIS IS NOT HOW FAMILY LAW WORKS- at least in my state. First off, her lawyer friend says her allegations of decades of abuse are completely bunk because she only has some faded bruises and old medical reports of broken ribs and chipped teeth. This is just… not accurate. Also her kids SAW him strangle her at one point! If there are allegations of abuse, the court will appoint a GAL to evaluate both parents and the family. Courts don’t LIKE granting sole custody to one parents unless there are SERIOUS issues. A pending DUI and forgetting to pick up the kid at football once? Not enough. It feels like the author wanted the abuse to be serious, but also her situation to be hopeless, and kind of missed where reality kicked in. Yes, victims of DV can be treated INCREDIBLY unfairly by the system. But frankly her having some bruising, medical records, and the kids witnessing an attempted strangulation is more then most have. It’s a legit stronger case. So I was grinding my teeth at her supposed best friend amazing lawyer who was poo pooing it.
Pet Peeve #3: She ends up living off the grid with some Native Americans in rural Washington State. And they teach her about living off the land, and emotions, and tell native stories to her, and it’s all very fetishizing and “mystical Indians teach white woman about family.” Ew.
Pet Peeve #4: Jill finds out Gordon is abusing his new girlfriend and decides it’s paramount to her custody case to prove this to the court. It certainly won’t hurt. But once again, it’s dismissing the strength of Jill’s own claims. It’s also forgetting, once again, that courts do NOT like granting sole custody. I’ve seen cases where a spouse is undoubtedly abusive but still gets partial custody of the children, because they never abused the kids. The court draws a distinction there. You have to show the abuse effects the kids- and the book is all about showing that Gordon is an amazing father.
Pet Peeve #5: Gordon gets a half hearted redemption at the end because he’s “a good dad.” Fuck that. He’s a serial abuser and would have fucked up his kids even if he never laid a hand on them. But the book ends on this nostalgic look back on this HORRIBLE MAN because….he loved his kids. Sure he was planning to kill his ex and was beating his new girlfriend, but he loved his kids y’all!
NO. STOP THAT.
TL;DR: I don’t recommend this book- primarily because it gets a lot stuff wrong in the legal system and that annoys me and also it’s kinda racist.
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