This book was published independently via the Createspace Platform and is available to buy via Amazon now. My thanks to the Author for providing a review copy.
Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
As the title suggests this book is about people whose lives have been manipulated by others, well in actual fact it is a series of novellas or short stories. Each story centres on a manipulator and how their individual behaviour effects themselves and those around them.
The five stories are called:
1. The Narcissist
2. Tess and Tattoos
3. The Spell
4. Runaway Girl
5. My Perfect Child
They are of varying lengths and I found them all to be a bit unsettling and something of a challenge. A challenge in that they made me think and they made me ponder what makes a person a manipulator. They are all well written and most were not what I had expected at all.
By definition a manipulator is someone who controls or influences another in an unscrupulous manner, and a person that needs to have control. Therefore it becomes easy to see that manipulators can come from all walks of life. In this case we read about an old man on his deathbed, a lady who on the surface is lonely, a single dad trying to make ends meet whilst embarking on a new relationship, a young girl that wants to leave home and be independent, and a mother who would do anything for her son.
What became authentic and clear in this writing is that the lines are never entirely black and white. Sometimes the lines blurred between who was the 'victim' and who was the 'manipulator'. The story I found most engaging in this regard was My Perfect Child. At what age do we hold a person responsible for their behaviour and therefore this lead me to believe anyway that some behaviours must be learnt.
This author has the capability to challenge, engage, and shock with her writing. It is almost as if she has taken a highlighter pen and signposted to me behaviour that is all around. I was somehow drawn into the stories, whilst knowing these sorts of people exist quite frequently and so the stories are not far fetched at all.
I rushed through reading some of the stories, as was my haste to reach the conclusion and sometimes these were not at all what I had anticipated. I would have liked to have found out more about some of the characters but I think this is a positive as it shows how invested I was in the writing.
All in all I felt that this was a well constructed set of stories that have left me with much to think about, the psychological bits have twisted my brain and left me wanting to read more. I would look forward to see what this writer comes up with in the future.
About the Author:
Helene Andrea Leuschel was born and raised in Belgium to German parents. She gained a Licentiate in Journalism, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Helene moved to the Algarve in 2009 with her husband and two children, working as a freelance TV producer and teaching yoga. She recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. Manipulated Lives is Helene’s first work of fiction.
You can find her on Twitter: @HALeuschel