Bookshots: 'The Other Side: A Memoir' by Lacy M. Johnson
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
The Other Side: A Memoir
Who wrote it?
Lacy M. Johnson, author of Trespasses: A Memoir, a Prof/Creative Director at University of Houston.
Plot in a Box:
After a daring escape from a murderous ex-boyfriend, Johnson fights to make sense of a life forever changed.
Invent a new title for this book:
Tell Me You'll Love Me Forever (which is what Johnson's ex would implore between episodes of abuse.)
Read this if you liked:
Trespasses: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Meet the book’s lead:
Johnson's actually an escape artist — breaking free first from her one-horse hometown and parents' stifling love, then twice from a madman obsessed.
Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:
Natalie Portman, because she could pull off being a tattooed wildchild and academic at the same time.
Setting: Would you want to live there?
Paris, Venezuela, Budapest, Spain — Johnson writes evocatively of her travels with her ex, but the most thrilling is the journey she takes to be free of him.
What was your favorite sentence?
I give the newest therapist the list. "It's possible I'm not remembering right."
She laughs out loud. "Is there any other way of remembering?"
"Take a breath...You're not dead yet." Johnson's memoir begins the night she eludes a violent demise and drives herself to the police station...and the rest of her life.
Immediately, we're drawn into the recollections of a victim of a crime who refuses to be a Victim for All Time. The narrative skips about: from a den of torture, to the restless, young adult she'd been years before, to the relationship with her professor that develops into one both dream-like and nightmarish, to a survivor who struggles to create a new life in a world forever changed. The structure, however, is seamless, causing us to be lost in the story without losing our place in the narrative.
Unlike a lot of Event Memoir, Johnson does not write exclusively about the book's catalyst or even herself. We are also taken along the journey of a young writer, witness the contrast between police notes and witness testimony, as well as the implosion of her parents' 30 year marriage and its aftermath, all unified by the theme of the uses of memory, and the way memory uses us.
Occasionally, I found the lovely, razor-sharp prose a bit slow-going — a circling around the crux of the story rather than the story itself. But perhaps that was deliberate. The manipulated student, the abused girlfriend, the kidnapped ex, taking back her story, taking control.
Beauty, pain, rage and hope suffuse every page of The Other Side. It's not just a gripping memoir, but a testament to the healing powers of memory.
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