"When I needed a place to go to keep out of Joan's way, I would find safety in the closet."
She ripped out her stepdaughter's hair, beat her, starved her, and used her as a slave, but four years of Joan Wood's best efforts couldn't kill Jeanne Olufson. Now, as an adult, Olufson takes pride in her survival. Before the abuse, Jeanne and her older brother spent five nonconsecutive years in the loving home of their paternal grandparents. Between stays, they had to live with their intermittently violent father and his various wives. Mentally disturbed Joan was the worst. As the target of her unpredictable, frequently absent husband's abuse, she, in turn, was cruel to Jeanne in particular. Despite her seemingly bleak prospects, Jeanne lived on the memories of her grandparents' kindness and never gave up hope of rescue. Jeanne's grit, a big brother's protection, and a seemingly nonchalant police officer's covert observation finally restored two children to a secure home where the slow process of healing could begin.
This poignant memoir also includes considerable self-help content. Olufson details her journey through counseling and her father's refusal to listen when she confronted him about the abuse. The text is full of imagery of the outdoors as a dangerous place and of home as a safe haven. Survivors of abuse will no doubt benefit from her assurance that such treatment is never the recipient's fault. She further declares that the display of domestic violence in front of children is itself a form of child abuse. She compassionately addresses the rarely mentioned topic of child-on-child violence, explaining that some young abusers deal with their trauma in this maladaptive way. Olufson candidly summarizes the current circumstances of her numerous siblings, and how each has dealt with their upbringing. She follows the main narrative with a list of resources for survivors and with heartfelt thanks to those who encouraged her to share her story.