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Monday, February 06, 2012

Split by Swati Avashti (and personal thoughts on abuse)

Wow, guys. This one is a hard one. I've been staring at this screen for way too long trying to explain, so I'm going to cheat and use the summary from the flap.

Sixteen-Year-Old Jace Witherspoon arrives at the doorstep of his estranged brother Christian with a re-landscaped face (courtesy of his father’s fist), $3.84, and a secret.

He tries to move on, going for new friends, a new school, and a new job, but all his changes can’t make him forget what he left behind—his mother, who is still trapped with his dad, and his ex-girlfriend, who is keeping his secret.

At least so far.

Worst of all, Jace realizes that if he really wants to move forward, he may first have to do what scares him most: He may have to go back. First-time novelist Swati Avasthi has created a riveting and remarkably nuanced portrait of what happens after. After you’ve said enough, after you’ve run, after you’ve made the split—how do you begin to live again?

Sounds heavy, right? And it is.  I'm not even going to try and write a review of the book itself, for a terrific review go read Janssen's.

I do want to address the issue of physical and verbal abuse. I grew up in a situation that involved verbal abuse and alcoholism. By some luck of the draw, I was spared 99% of the time but the rest of my family was not so fortunate. Verbal abuse isn't as immediately life threatening as physical abuse, but it leaves definite scars, even to those who aren't the direct target. To those who are the target, you can see the effects 10 years later in their significant relationships and life choices. It is impossible to be taught you are worthless as a child and teen and still grow into a strong adult without a lot of work and effort.   I had no problems at all identifying with Jace's fear that he would turn into his father.  I could completely believe that his dad didn't see anything at all wrong with what he was doing, that they were out to get him.  I can remember hiding in the closet so that I couldn't hear what was happening and I remember the first time I felt smart enough and bold enough to put myself in the line of fire, and take the heat. My situation was different from Jace's though, because for whatever reason it usually worked when I did it.

Fortunately, in my case, none of us are in the situation any longer. This doesn't mean there aren't long term issues of self-worth and horrible patterns of behavior when we feel attacked. It takes a lifetime to undo something like this, and it's certain that we could have all used some kind of therapy. Given the chance, the guilty party will still belittle and criticize his targets.  This is why we have no relationship to speak of.  I am a bit hesitant to post this at all, it took me all day to write those two paragraphs. I feel like I'm divulging someone else's personal history, but I feel that it's relavant to my reaction to the book.

Bravo to Avasthi for getting it right, as awful as it is. I will be thinking about Jace and Christian and their mom for a long, long time.

Split by Swati Avasthi


  1. It sounds like reading this book was a very emotional experience for you. It sounds like a powerful book.

  2. I'm so glad it resonated with you. You're brave to talk about your own experiences!

  3. Janssen is absolutely right - you're so brave to be willing to open up about something so painful. It must have been difficult, at times, to read this book.

  4. I absolutely loved this book when I read it last year. Fought hard for it during Cybils season too! The author did such an amazing job at creating characters that just really got to my heart.

  5. Thank you for such an honest review...and for sharing something that is both difficult and personal!


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