Thursday, December 16, 2010

If I Am Missing or Dead

We've all heard the stories on the news of women who disappear or are killed by boyfriends or husbands.  It's often a shock.  What if you received a call that your sister was missing?  What if you then found out she left a hidden letter explaining who was responsible if she should go missing or be found dead?

This is exactly what happened to Janine Latus.  She tells her story in If I Am Missing or Dead.  When Janine's sister goes missing, she immediately suspects the boyfriend.  Upon searching her sister's house, a note is found, hinting that the boyfriend is responsible for whatever tragedy has occurred.

When I picked up this book, I expected the whole book to be the story of Janine's sister's disappearance, discovery, and fight for justice.  Instead, I found that most of the book was about Janine's life.  She talked of her own experiences and relationships.

While this wasn't what I was expecting, I still enjoyed the story she told.  Both Janine and her sister suffered in abusive relationships.  They would confide in each other but only to a certain point.  They would encourage each other to leave the abusive relationships while staying with their own abusers.

I have always been interested in learning why people behave certain ways and how their experiences and families have shaped them.  Janine spent most of the book talking about those events in her life that have shaped the woman she has become.  She writes about the messages she received from others, how she internalized them, and how she then reacted to these messages.

If I Am Missing or Dead is a revealing memoir about abusive relationships and the struggles that come with them.  Many people ask, "Why doesn't she just leave?"  Whether a relationship is physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive, there is damage being done.  There's also feelings of confusion, helplessness, and fear.  Janine demonstrated this nicely.  There were times when she wanted to leave her abusive husband, but then she would think of his good qualities and the good times they had shared.  She wanted him to love her and want her and feared that she would be alone if she left him.  She questioned how she would care for herself and her daughter if she left him, since he was the breadwinner.  Abusive relationships are complex, and Janine's book shows that.

So this book wasn't what I originally thought it would be.  It turned out a lot different.  I was expecting the story of Janine's sister, not the story of Janine.  Despite this difference, I still really liked this book.

Rating: 3/5

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