Showing posts with label dysfunctional families. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dysfunctional families. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews

Two Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories 

We've all heard about hoarders or seen documentaries about them on television. Few of us, however, have grown up in a hoarder's house. The children of hoarders have no choice. I'd like to introduce you to two of those children, now adults, who have written their stories.

Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews
A Hoarder's Living Room Probably Looks More Cluttered than This
By Maschinenjunge [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons

My myLot friend, Lori Moore, wrote The Hoarder's Daughter: Memories of a Life in Chaos. Her mother was not only a hoarder but also an emotional abuser. Lori wrote her book to show others what the life of a hoarder is like and how it often destroys the hoarder's relationship with family and friends. She hopes to help people distinguish between a real hoarder and a messy or really disorganized person that keep a lot of clutter around. She also wanted to finally expose her family secret. She says "Toxic family dysfunction has to be acknowledged before it can be fixed."

Izabelle Winter's father also hoarded his possessions. Izabelle had left home as a young woman to escape the house.When she was married with eight-year-old twin girls and a ten-year-old son, her father fell from a ladder while pruning. He had turned his backyard into a garden all his neighbors admired, but most had never seen the inside of his house.

Izabelle's mother had died nineteen years earlier, after a mental breakdown. Isabelle's brother Ant still lived in the house with his father even though he was long into adulthood. He suffered from learning disabilities that hindered his ability to make decisions and take initiative. Isabelle knew she would have to take charge of getting the house ready for her dad to come home to, probably unable to walk. She wrote Diary of a Hoarder's Daughter to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Lori's Story of Living with Emotional Abuse in a Hoarder's House

Lori writes as an abuse survivor. She dedicates her book to her brother whom she calls "my sibling survivor of the lying, manipulating, stealing, and hoarding person that we un affectionately referred to as 'Mean Mom.'" In the book she calls her mom Louise, though it's not her real name. Louise had so perfected her skills of  intimidation  and inducing guilt that Lori was fifty before she realized she was the abuse victim -- not her mom. Although her brother was also a victim, Lori believes his story is his to tell, not hers, so she tells only her part of it.

Growing Up in a Hoarding House

Lori recalls that the house she grew up in smelled so bad that people almost gagged when they walked in. The house was already full but her mother kept accumulating and the possessions had to go onto the backyard patio. Lori called the junk at the entrance "Mount Trashmore."

There were also health hazards. I won't go into all the horrifying details, but here are a couple to give you an idea. Trash was strewn everywhere. There was an air force of flies and gnats. There were maggots in the toilets and sinks. A stray cat had become part of the household, but no one cleaned the litter box, so the cat stopped using it. I think you've got the picture. It was so bad that Lori's brother, who had inherited the house, had to evict Louise from it after she'd lived there for 19 years.

Trying to Help Louise

After the eviction, Lori and her brother found a low-rent apartment for senior living and Louise didn't even pack since she resisted moving. Lori and her brother had supplied the new residence with clean furnishings and clothing and stocked the apartment with food. Louise had already begun to hoard again a month after she had this chance to start fresh. After four months she had done no cleaning, dishwashing or laundry.

How This Affected Lori

Lori's parents divorced when she was eleven. Her father and brother were now a hundred miles away and she missed them. Her mother neglected her and she was often hungry. This probably is part of what led to Lori's eating disorder. Lori also suffered the lack of love, security, protection, and approval she craved. She believes her mother was incapable of providing it. 

Because of the emotional abuse and the secrecy the hoarding behavior required, Lori was socially isolated. She could not have friends over.  She has been through years of therapy to deal with the abuse she has endured.  

In spite of what she suffered during childhood as a hoarder's emotionally abused daughter who struggled with guilt, lack of parental support, and social isolation, Lori has had a successful adult life. She has four graduate academic degrees and has been an adjunct professor and an upper level manager for large corporations. She has also written several books besides this one. 

Things I Learned from Lori's Book

Besides just telling her story, Lori did a lot of research on hoarding and emotional abuse. She covers some of these areas:  
  • Ways in which emotional abuse and hoarding are related. 
  • Manifestations of Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Symptoms of a Cognitive Disorder
  • Cognitive Symptoms of Depression
As I was reading through the behavior of someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder, something hit me like a bolt of lightning. I believe that's what my daughter suffered from. It may be part of the reason for her suicide as an adult

Izabelle's Efforts to Clear Space in a Hoarder's House

Izabelle Winter, a busy mother with a part-time job, had to completely disrupt her life for over a month to suddenly deal with what she saw as her "personal Everest" that she had to climb -- alone! She even refers to the clutter in her father's house as "The Mountain" whenever she writes about dealing with it. Because she found around sixty pairs of shoes in the clutter she went through, she calls her father Imelda in the book, after Imelda Marcos.

Climbing "Everest"

Izabelle had a deadline to clear enough space in the house for her father and visiting outside help to function. He could not be released from the hospital with a broken back until this was done. Wheelchair or walker access might also be needed.  He needed to be able to get to his bed and an accessible bathroom.

The problem with clearing space in a hoarder's house is that there is no room for sorting. Every available space in Imelda's house was filled with junk from floor to ceiling -- every room, every cupboard, and every path through the house. The kitchen, bathroom, and stairs were also full. None of the items were organized. Junk mail mixed with shoes, clothes, spare parts, broken items, unopened packages of children's clothes, money inside magazines and receipts, trash ... well you get the idea. Izsabelle describes her feelings here:

I felt as though I was at Everest base camp, all  alone, wearing just flip-flops and a woolly hat. I was totally unprepared for the nightmare I faced; totally terrified by it and afraid I'd fall on the way up the mountain. I just wanted to go home and hide. 

Health Issues

To add to Izabelle's problem, she had severe dust allergies and asthma. She sometimes had been unable to breathe when around too much dust. This often sent her to the hospital and she almost died there once. How was she to attack clearing the space Imelda needed?  Even on her visits to him she always talked to him outside in the garden.

After he fell, whenever she entered the house to work she had to wear a dust mask, trousers, and long sleeves. When she started the clearing project, she had to recruit help, often from her brother Ant, to carry boxes of stuff outside so she could sort there.

Helpful People Who Told Comforting Stories

You can just imagine Izabelle's life, caring for her children, working on "The Mountain," and visiting Imelda in the hospital every afternoon just before going to work in the late afternoon. I will leave the details for you to read in the book. She attacked the junk piles methodically and searched through every pile or box before throwing anything from it in a trash bag. Close friends and neighbors often helped her, and they told her stories about her mother from the good years. She appreciated that. She also unearthed diaries her mother had written that showed how the hoarding had affected her.

It's Hard to Cure a Hoarder

This first video is very sad. We watch a woman choose her stuff above her relationships. She just can't let go. But we do get a feel for why some people hoard and why they can't stop even with professional help.

This next video shows us two other hoarders who may be headed for a more normal life. But you can see how hard it is for them to make the changes that are good for them. 


When Imelda was finally released from the hospital, Izabelle had cleared enough space so he could come home and sleep in his bed and take care of his needs. She and her friends had worked almost nonstop in every spare minute. Later Izabelle and Imelda were approached to participate in a BBC documentary show on hoarding. After much soul searching and discussion with the producers, they decided to participate. Later they did a follow-up episode. Before that episode, professionals came to clear the living room enough to allow Imelda's grandchildren to get to the sofa so they could sit there together to interact. The camera view of the room was clear, even though some stuff still remained outside the camera view.

The idea was that they took everything out and were hoping Imelda wouldn't want to bring it all back in, but he did want to bring most of it back in. Izabelle didn't visit much that first month. She wanted to see if her father would actually clear anything he had said he would.

Six months after the program was filmed, Imelda's stuff was creeping back up the stairs and into other places Izabelle had cleared. She decided it's his house and she would let him live as he chose. It's hard for a hoarder to change -- even with professional help. She accepted he'd never change at 83. Ten months after the fall, at the time the book was written, the house was filling up again.

Contrasting These Memoirs by Hoarding House Survivors

Both books discuss these topics.

  • Some reasons people hoard
  • Broken family relationships due to hoarding
  • Experiences of family members trying to help hoarders
  • Descriptions of hoarder house conditions
  • Health hazards of hoarding and living with a hoarder

Unique Content in The Hoarder's Daughter by Izabelle Winter

Izabelle had a deadline to meet and had to act quickly to meet it. She emphasizes the emotional and physical struggles of clearing rooms without harming her own health. She goes into more detail than Lori about the mess and the clearing strategy she used. Izabelle was less socially isolated than Lori appeared to be in clearing clutter, and her friends and neighbors supported and helped her. Lori and her brother seemed to do most of the work in helping their mother themselves. 

Izabelle goes into much more detail on the thinking process of a hoarder. A hoarder's perception of value is different than that of someone who is just messy and accumulates more clutter than neater people do. Because Izabelle understands the process, she realizes she won't be able to change her father. Since he seems to be able to function in the mess, once he heals, she leaves him be and resigns herself to the condition of the house going back to what it was. 

Although Izabelle doesn't analyze her father's mental conditions as much as Lori does her mother's, she does mention the ways that her father still treats her like a child. She goes into detail about his selective hearing and not caring about what she and her children have to say to him about everyday things unrelated to the hoarding. She feels dismissed because she is female. She gives examples of conversations that make her point. She doesn't label this as emotional abuse, but Lori probably would have. 

Isabelle's story is primarily about dealing with "The Mountain" and her relationship with her father in that context. While clearing she also unearths her mother's diaries that reveal the effect the hoarding had on her mother's mental health. 

Izabelle seems to have a better relationship with her father than Lori did with her mother, in spite of the past and continuing problems caused by the hoarding that affected her life. Example: Izabelle visits her father and brother often, but she doesn't visit with them in the house because she can't breathe inside the house. I don't know whether her visiting is also primarily because of her brother. She did want her children to have a relationship with their only living grandparent. 

Note: One thing that took some getting used to while reading this were all the uniquely British terms Izabelle used that aren't in American English. Izabelle lives in Wales. 

Unique Content in The Hoarder's Daughter by Lori Moore

Unless Izabelle left out some of the worst details in the hoarding, it would appear that Lori's mother's hoarding was more unsanitary than that of Izabelle's father. Perhaps that is because Ant, an adult child, still lived with him to see that it didn't get to the place where feces -- both human and cat -- were scattered around. Louise's house didn't deteriorate that much until Lori and her brother had moved out and she lived in the house alone. 

Lori shares, as noted above, many of the facts and symptoms of the disorders that turn someone into a hoarder. She points out that secrecy is a factor in both emotional abuse and hoarding. In her research she discovered that hoarding is a distinct genetic subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The best chance for changing the hoarding behavior appears to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the hoarder's home. A hoarder needs a lot of help in developing new habits. You can see this process in the videos I shared above. 

Both Lori and Isabella struggled with their duty to their hoarding parents. Lori shares Billy Graham's suggestions for how to honor a parent engaged in such behavior without enabling the behavior itself. Lori alone provides a list of helpful resources and things to read for those who want to dig deeper. 

More Resources

Here are some additional resources if you want to get more information not included in these memoirs. Amazon Prime has several videos on hoarding and helping hoarders. Click here to see the list.  At least some are free for Prime members to watch. 

The product page for the book below has an informative series of clutter rating images by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, experts in dealing with hoarding. These images can serve as a guide in identifying the difference between normal clutter and a hoarding disorder. 

The books below are aimed at those who fear they may be headed toward hoarding and want to deal with it now, those who want to help a loved one with a clutter problem, and those who want to understand and help those close to them they suspect may have a hoarding problem. The two memoirs I've reviewed here are also included for convenience.

Whether you have a tendency toward hoarding, want to help someone with a severe hoarding problem, or just want a better understanding of hoarding, I hope this post has helped you. If it has, please share it. People who hoard tend to keep it secret. You never know whom you may be helping by giving them this information.

Hoarders' Daughters Tell Their Stories: Book Reviews

The image above is credited as follows: By TheDoctorMo [CC BY-SA 3.0  ( or GFDL
(], from Wikimedia Commons, modified

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri

It Is Always Time for God's Grace

The Time of Grace Christian romance series is different than most I've read. Its overall theme is that God himself is the great lover of the men and women who live their lives from day to day. The secondary theme is the difference Christians can make in the lives of those who live in despair because they have not experienced God's grace and have no hope.

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Image Courtesy of

Not Your Typical Christian Romance

Most Christian romances I read have two main characters who fall in love but encounter obstacles on the path to marriage. These are often due to a misunderstanding on the part of one or both of the characters. Maybe they overheard some gossip they accepted as fact, or saw something that was different than it appeared to be. The main action in these romances is getting the two people together and married so they can live happily ever after. We don't usually see what comes after.

The three books in the Time of Grace Series are not like that. The main character, Jesus, is never seen except in the lives of his people and their efforts to reach out to those have not yet accepted his free gift of grace and salvation. We see God dealing with the main characters as families and as individual members of those families.

The three Christian historical romance novels in this series are set during the depression years in Rhode Island. Book 1, The Fragrance of Geraniums, begins in 1934. In it we first meet fifteen-year-old Grace Picoletti, as she auditions for the school chorus, humiliated because the rubber band holding the sole of her saddle shoe has burst, and her shoe is flapping. Her family is destitute. We also meet her teacher, Mr. Kinner, who is conducting the auditions. He and his wife, Emmeline live in a lovely home and Emmeline grows geraniums from hanging pots on her porch. Grace looks forward to seeing the beauty of these red geraniums every day as she comes home from school. We also meet Paulie Giorgi, one of Grace's classmates, son of a prominent doctor. 

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo in Public Domain Courtesy of Pixabay

The Families

The Picoletti Family

The Picoletti family is destitute. Grace's mother Sarah lives in despair. Her husband Charlie is unfaithful and abusive. As the book opens Grace's oldest brother Ben makes a surprise visit. He tells Grace their father is planning to bring his latest mistress home to live on a cottage on their property. He reveals he has fought with his father about this and has just punched Charlie out because of it. He tells Grace he has to leave again.

The other four children are minor characters in the book. Sarah finally sends her favorite, Evelyn, to live with her wealthier sister so she can have a better life. Grace's two older sisters leave home to get jobs and live on their own to get away from the violence. Then they get married and we don't see much of them after that. Cliff, the younger brother, is out of control and often gets into trouble.

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo in Public Domain Courtesy of Pixabay
The author focuses mostly on Sarah and Grace, both of whom have little hope. There is not enough to eat, Charlie publicly humiliates them with his blatant infidelity, and they can't afford decent clothes or shoes. Sarah has let herself go physically, since Charlie pays little attention to her anymore except to demand she cook, clean, and take care of his laundry – or else. The family is Catholic, but they don't connect what happens in church to their daily lives. They have no notion of a God that loves them personally. They have no hope of improving their lives. 

Grace is highly intelligent, but Sarah is expecting another baby and insists Grace will need to quit school to help her. The baby is born 85% of the way through the book, and Emmeline, who has become a friend to Sarah, stays to help her. Charlie shows no interest in the baby and wants no part of him. This crushes Sarah.

Charlie's mistress Gertrude leaves him and takes everything of value that was in the room they shared. Charlie goes to town, gets drunk, and is killed in an accident. He leaves Sarah no source of income and much debt, since he has not paid the bills or the mortgage in months and the bank is about to take the house. She sees no solution except to move in with her brother in New Jersey, taking Cliff and Grace, and leaving friends and her grown children behind.

The Kinner Family

Geoff and Emmeline Kinner attend the First Baptist Church. They are a middle class family and economically well off enough to share what they have with others. They are kind to all. Geoff is Grace and Paulie's teacher, is truly interested in his students, and prays for them.

To outsiders, Geoff and Emmeline appear to have an ideal life. But they want to start a family, and Emmeline has never been able to carry a child to full term. At the beginning of this book she has told her husband she is four months pregnant, and they are ecstatic, since Emmeline has never carried a baby this long. But when Emmeline sees the doctor the next day, he dashes her hopes and tells her she probably will lose this baby, too.

The Giorgi Family

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Doctor Samuel Giorgi and his son Paulie, seventeen, live in a mansion with a staff of servants. Samuel's wife, Julie, Paulie's mother, died of an aneurysm six years ago, and Samuel and Paulie miss her terribly. They also attend First Baptist Church.

After Julie's death, Samuel hired Mrs. McCusker as a house keeper to run his household and help out with Paulie. Sam is a prominent obstetrician who often has to leave to deliver babies at all hours of the night. In the last chapters of The Fragrance of Geraniums we learn that Samuel had once been engaged to Sarah before he left for college. His family had disapproved of her, and said if he married they would not pay for his education. He had intended to get get through medical school and then come back and marry her. She had felt betrayed because he had chosen his education over her, and had married Charlie. Sam later met Julie and fell in love with and married her.

Three Books, One Story

After reading what's above, you can probably guess a lot of the plot. Paulie and Grace are classmates and fall in love despite their different economic classes. Emmeline and Grace become friends, and through that relationship Emmeline also meets Sarah and reaches out to her. When Charlie badly burns his face badly in the last quarter of the book, he comes to Sarah for help. She sends Grace to get the regular doctor, but he's away at a conference. They can't afford the hospital or an ambulance, and even though Grace is trying to avoid Paulie, she sees no option but to run to his house to see if his father will come.

Mrs McCusker answers the door and says the doctor cannot be disturbed, but Paulie hears the conversation and gets his dad. Mrs. McCusker treats Grace shabbily. Sam and Paulie drive Grace home. As Sam treats Charlie, Sarah is holding his head. Sam and Sarah recognize each other. She did not know he had returned.

By the end of the first book, Grace has finally understood that Jesus does love her and has given her life to him. Sarah has been listening at home in her darkest hours to a Protestant radio station, mostly for the music. What she hears conflicts with much she has believed as a Catholic, but she wants to believe that Jesus loves her and can change her. She just isn’t sure how to approach him. Emmeline has shared her faith and how Jesus helps her through her grief over the loss of her child. 

The book ends with Charlie's funeral. All three families are there. We have seen God's answer to the prayers of Emmeline and Geoff.  The reader is left hanging as to what will happen to the Picoletti family. Will Sam and Sarah renew their relationship now that Charlie is dead? Do Grace and Paulie have a future together? Those questions are answered in the last two books, which I had to purchase because I couldn't stop reading until I reached the last page of the last book.

The Books' Themes

Several themes play out in this series. First is God's unconditional love. This theme pervades all the others. Christians need, by God's grace, to forgive those who hurt them physically and emotionally, in order to be whole themselves.

Love is sacrificial. This theme comes to a climax near the end of the last book. God's love is redemptive. Sam shows us this in the last book very vividly.

God's love persistent. Both Paulie and Sam persist in reaching out to members of the Picoletti family even when their efforts are rejected.

God seeks and saves those who are lost in despair and bitterness. He uses his people to help, as he used Sam, Paulie, and Emmeline in this book. They prayed, and they shared their faith, but first they listened and helped physically with unspoken needs.

An example: Emmeline initiated a relationship with Grace just because she knew Grace always paused at her house to look at something on the way home from school. She used that knowledge to reach out to Grace and get acquainted. She suspected Grace didn't get enough to eat, so she made sure there were fresh cookies and milk whenever Grace visited. She suspected that Grace was ashamed of her home so she invited Grace and Paulie to have their tutoring sessions at her kitchen table, along with refreshments.

The author shows that only people who get their sense of worth from the knowledge that God loves them are secure enough to be who they really are. Since they know God accepts them, they do not need to live for the approval of or fear the judgment of others.

A good part of The Fragrance of Geraniums consists of passages from the Bible that the characters share with each other or encounter in radio or church sermons. This might be a bit much for some people, but each passage is relevant to the themes. The characters share their reactions, not always positive, to these passages.

My Opinion of the Series

Overall, the series held my interest because from the beginning I cared about the characters. I empathized with Sarah and Grace. I wanted Paulie and Grace to straighten out their friendship when it became strained. I wanted Sarah and Grace to experience the grace of God. And I wanted Ben to surrender his bitterness and false pride and answer the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to see how God would accomplish his plan in each life.

I felt there were some weaknesses that we see in many Christian novels. Although there was a lot of showing in the lives of the characters, there might have been a bit too much telling. It was preachy. Sam and Paulie were so godly they were unrealistic. I loved them, but they were almost too Christlike. They were both very good at turning the other cheek and praying for those who hurt them when most people would at least say something hurtful back and ask forgiveness later. They did sometimes have thoughts that weren't loving, but they hardly ever gave voice to them. I can't think of one example where they really lost it, even though they were tempted.

The author was good at foreshadowing future events. She dropped enough clues to enable the reader to predict why there was a problem between Grace and Paulie in the last book. To say anymore would be a spoiler.

The relationship between Paulie and Sam was one any father would envy. It contrasted with the terrible relationship between Ben and his father Charlie. Emmeline and Geoff showed Grace that all men were not like her father and that a marriage could be healthy and loving.

Unlike most romances, the books in this series are serious and deal with heavy subjects like abuse, bereavement, and rebellion. The marriages are not always the “live happily ever after” kind – even when the man and wife are Christians. Even forgiven sins have consequences that make life hard. God works his plan out even in these marriages that aren't ideal. The main love is between God and the characters, and until they are rightly related to him, the human love affairs don't go very smoothly.

As you read the looks, you may find yourself grappling with issues instead of escaping into a pleasant world with a happy wedding at the end. There are plenty of dark valleys to walk through before you see a rainbow. It's still a journey I'm glad I took -- realistic or not. Book 1, The Fragrance of Geraniums, is free for your Kindle as I  write this. I hope it will hook you and that you will want to read the other  two books, as I did. I would suggest you get all three books at once. Just click on the book covers above.

Review of The Time of Grace Series by Alicia Ruggieri

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of Inescapable- The Road to Kingdom

Can We Ever Escape the Past?

Inescapable (Road to Kingdom Book #1) by Nancy Mehl is the story of Lizzie Engel's escape from her past in the Old Order Mennonite Town of Kingdom, to Kansas City to start a new life. She returns with fear again to Kingdom when a new threat emerges in Kansas City. Through most of the book, Lizzie lives under the shadow of Kingdom as it used to be. Gradually she learns that just as she is changing, the town she left is also changing. Though she never escapes her past, she is finally able to embrace the town and escape into a future where her emotional wounds can heal.

Why Did Lizzie Leave Kingdom? Why Does She Want to Return?

Lizzie was born in Kingdom, Kansas, to Old Order Mennonite parents. Her father was an elder of the church and one who could be depended upon to join with those who were the strictest in enforcing the Ordnung -- a set of unwritten rules of behavior the faithful were expected to follow. He had always treated Lizzie harshly. Throughout the book, every time Lizzie does something she feels might be wrong, her father's voice seems to reprove her or call her stupid or wicked. Her mother was more gentle, but was also intimidated by her husband on the rare occasions when she tried to intervene.
Lizzie left Kingdom in disgrace. She was pregnant after being seduced by Clay Troyer, whom she'd gone to school with in Washington. When Troy and his family learned Lizzie was pregnant, they suddenly left the area without even a good-bye. Her mother was sad. Her father was silently condemning. The looks of the other church members were disapproving. So Lizzie took her daughter Charity and fled to Kansas City, where she started a new life. She was determined that Charity would not live under the same shadow of disapproval she herself had always felt.
As this book begins, Lizzie is fleeing again with Charity. Although she had found a happy life in Kansas City and had a good job and friends, she had reason to be afraid again. At all costs she wants to protect Charity. Two things have shaken her world.
The first is that her boss Sylvia at Harbor House, a women's shelter, has suffered her second heart attack and resigned. Sylvia had been her first friend in Kansas City. They had met when Lizzie was a waitress at Betty's Cafe, her first job in the city. Lizzie was almost running it herself by then. Lizzie gave Betty notice, and joined Sylvia at Harbor House.
After Sylvia left, she was replaced by Reba, who got along with no one. After Reba's boyfriend appeared too interested in Lizzie, Reba accuses Lizzie of stealing a thousand dollars that is missing, and the books make it appear that Lizzie is guilty. Lizzie knows she is being framed, but does not know how to prove her innocence. She is afraid charges will be brought against her and they might take Charity away from her.
Around the same time her troubles at work started, Lizzie began to be stalked by a man in a red baseball cap. He would stand across the street and stare at her apartment. Threatening letters began to appear in blue envelopes with no return address. One letter read:" I'm watching you. It's just a matter of time before I get you and your little girl. You'll never get away from me." (From Chapter 2)
Lizzie quits her job and manages to get a last paycheck. After going home and getting the last threatening letter from her mailbox, she sees the man in the red hat, holds the letter in the air, and yells at him, "Why are you doing this? What do you want?" She threatened to call the police. He took a step back and she took a step off the curb. She was struck by a car and everything went black.
Next thing she knew, her landlady was standing over her. Someone had called an ambulance. She didn't feel she needed to be looked at and refused treatment because she didn't have money to pay for it. The man in the red cap was gone. She returns to her apartment in pain, and gets Charity into bed before looking at her bruised hip in the bathroom. As she berates herself for her stupidity, she hears the echo of her father's voice, "How could you be so stupid, Elizabeth? How could a daughter of mine be so ignorant?" She tells herself her father may have been right. Even though her childhood in Kingdom had been painful, she suddenly longed to be there again.
Then Lizzie seemed to hear another voice, a voice that sounded different than her father's. It urged her to go home and assured her everything would be all right. She couldn't imagine how things could turn out all right. She had left an outcast, the fallen daughter of an elder. But she still hears the insistent voice saying, "Go home, Lizzie. Go home."
The only thing Lizzie had left in life that she cared about was Charity, and she was determined to keep her safe. She felt there was only one road left she could take now -- the road back to Kingdom.

Why Kingdom?

Although Lizzie had always been subject to verbal abuse and had often been severely punished by her father, she did believe her mother loved her. Although the Old Order Mennonite Community had been repressive and made Lizzie feel stifled, she still did have friends there. She also felt it was a safe haven.
Kingdom (which is as far as I can tell a fictional town) is in Northern Kansas , about ten miles south of Nebraska. It is a long buggy ride from Washington, where many of Kingdom’s children went to school. It is an isolated community. You’d never find the turn-off from the highway for the road that leads to Kingdom unless you already knew where it is. Lizzie was sure her enemies would not find her in Kingdom.
Another reason Lizzie expected Kingdom to be a safe place was that the Mennonite community protected its own. In this small town of only 300, strangers were obvious. They were usually met by a church elder who intended to determine what their business was in Kingdom. It was not a good place for a stranger to hide. Though Lizzie may have been considered by some a black sheep, she knew the town would do their best to protect her and Charity. A stranger who was determined to be up to no good would be escorted out.
When Lizzie had left, the winds of change were in the air. Some of the younger church members were beginning to believe the rules should not be so strict. Maybe women should be able to wear lighter colors. Maybe farmers should be able to use tractors. Maybe modern plumbing wasn’t immoral. Maybe telephones weren’t sinful.
When Lizzie had left, her father, Matthew had been a very powerful and influential elder. When she returned those of his persuasion were beginning to be less influential. The church was on the verge of a crisis in leadership. The members of the congregation were not as judgmental as they had been when she left. They welcomed her back.
When Lizzie arrived in Kingdom again, she had only planned to stay as long as it took her to be sure her name had been cleared of stealing the money back in Kansas City and she no longer felt threatened by the man in the red hat. But her experience back in Kingdom gave her a reason to stay.

My Review of Inescapable

I have laid the background. You know why Lizzie left Kingdom and why she returned. The rest of the book shows you her new life there. She has relationships to mend, especially with her parents, Matthew and Anna. She gets a job working in a cafe again, and finds a friend in its owner Cara Menlo, who had warmly welcomed her back home. Cara also provided a place to live above the cafe.
Lizzie's old friend Noah sees her in the cafe and welcomes her back. They had done everything together as children. It is obvious to the reader that he has been and is still in love with Lizzie – in spite of the fact her child was conceived by another man when she was in her teens.
Even though the love shines from Noah’s eyes and everyone can see it there, Lizzie insists on believing he couldn’t love her because she thought they had never been more than just friends. I call this kind of misunderstanding, which I’ve seen in book after book I’ve been reading, a contrived obstacle to keep the plot moving. Perhaps Lizzie is just afraid to believe Noah loves her. So I’ll play along to keep the plot moving.
Had she not dismissed and insisted on misinterpreting Noah’s attention to her when they reunited, he would have courted her and they probably would have married soon after. This would not have solved all her problems, but it would have made much of what happened after that in the book unnecessary. It would have removed her sense of danger and given her daughter Charity a father. She would not have felt she needed to flee again, and she would not have been tempted to make another big mistake. But then there would have been no need for the author to write the rest of the book.
That brings up another contrived obstacle that is often used in fiction. That would be the obstacle of a decision made. A character says she will marry someone or take a job and it’s as though she now has no choice but to follow through, no matter what new information might be revealed. After Charity’s father, Clay, tracks Lizzie down and appears on the scene with excuses for leaving and lies about what he intended, he persuades her to marry him and come to Seattle with him where she and Charity will be safe from the danger that follows her. (Another blue envelope has showed up in Kingdom.) He claims to love her.
Lizzie is torn, but wants what’s best for Charity. Noah has not yet declared his love, and Clay has turned on the charm and convinced Lizzie she does still love him. Noah sees the danger of losing Lizzie and finally speaks his piece to her, declaring his love and proposing. She turns him down even though she loves him because she’s already decided it’s best to marry Charity’s father. Noah has warned her that Clay is a bad apple and she would regret marrying him, but Lizzie ignores her heart. She only realizes the truth when Clay’s lies become apparent and she sees his real motivation.
To tell you more would ruin the story. There is still a family to put back together, since Matthew would not permit Lizzie into their home. And Lizzie’s heart also needs to be put back together as she finds that God is not like her earthly father Matthew.
I would recommend this book if you like Christian fiction that deals with troubled relationships, has a bit of romance, and illustrates how God can redeem any situation. Kingdom is a refuge, but danger does arrive, and there is plenty of suspense to keep you reading to the end.

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