“Unspoken” by Rebecca Chianese

Genre: Women’s FictionUnspoken
Publisher: Eifrig Publishing
Pub. Date: April 25, 2021

Sexual abuse is a challenging subject to write about in fiction. “Unspoken” is an empowering story about breaking the silence of the assault on girls and women without making it too hard for the reader to digest. I never felt that I needed to skim paragraphs even while reading the darker moments.  Still, the author makes sure that the reader sees the unhealthy results of when victims do not tell of the abuse and/or represses their memories.  Chianese manages this feat by also giving the reader a plotline that is not only about sexual abuse.  The story is also about the strength of female friendship and just how powerful ordinary women can be. The reader meets four women who develop an unlikely friendship. Their friendship is improbable because they are all very different from one another. At the beginning of the story, motherhood and their book club are the only connections that they have to each other.

The women’s differences are written in a witty manner that lets me see each character clearly in my head.  One is a mother whose house is always in a chaotic state.  She refers to her mudroom as her kid’s ‘fight club.’ What mom cannot relate to that? This woman is a bit quirky and is involved with pagan witchcraft.  However, her practice will make the reader chuckle more than make us wonder about her religious sanity. She prays to a goddess that is both Greek and Jewish, as she is, to give her the grace and patience to get through another book club night without too much eye-rolling.

Then another woman is a perfectionist.  Her home is pristine, color coordinated and expensively furnished. Everything inside her home, as well as herself, is designed for guests to oh and ah over.  Of course, on the night she hosts the book club food and drink are selected to coordinate with the book the ladies will be discussing.  Yet, she too is an endearing character.  Don’t we all try to impress others on our social media posts?  Don’t we all want our lives to present just a bit nicer than it is?

Another book club friend once worked as a school librarian. She made serious rules for the club that scared away possible members. Another lighthearted moment for the reader. But, have no fear for boring discussions, wine is also one of the rules. Lastly, there is a divorced woman who is co-parenting with her ex and his new wife. By chance, the new wife happens to be her lawyer. I thought that was too much to be believed.  Women’s fiction is not a favorite genre of mine. I find that it can get too close to chick-lit for my taste. And, the ending is almost always wrapped up in a bow. But, this is how the author masterly sets her stage to incorporate abuse and female friendship dynamics into the storyline.  Yes, the dialogue between the different personalities creates amusing banter and works as a buffer in between reading the novel’s more difficult sections. Still, the women are inspirationally fierce when all four bond together to understand why one of their daughters has been acting out. They are blind-sighted to learn the reason and then they fight like hell for her.

The author nails all the confusing emotions that sexually abused children experience.  Such as, how a thirteen-year-old girl may believe she enjoys the sex with an adult male. Think “Lolita”. Or how a girl can be mentally traumatized by witnessing a friend’s dark secret and keeping it to herself. In a way, “Unspoken” is also a coming-of-age story that does a good job in showing us how trauma causes toxic dissociation, and all the turmoil that comes with it. Her story also shows us the steps to take that can lead to healing from the assault/s. It takes a talented author to write on such an uncomfortable subject that can still make the reader laugh in between tears of shock, rage, and pain.

Unfortunately, unlike in this novel parents are not always receptive to believing their children.  Some mothers live in a world of denial thereby preventing them from intervening to protect their child or children. On the back cover of the book, there is the websitewww.hopesdoorny.org for an agency that advocates for survivors of sexual assault. Shouldn’t all of us do something to end violence against girls and women? Even in this #MeToo era, we still need a reminder that it is all our jobs to keep our children safe.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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