Friday, July 10, 2009

When Katie Wakes: A Memoir - Connie May Fowler (Kindle)

Have I told you lately that I love Connie May Fowler? I suppose I have. Are you tired of hearing it yet? Are you going to break down and read something she has written? As my civic duty, I must link you back to some of my reviews of her novels that you may have missed…Sugar Cage, Remembering Blue, and Before Women Had Wings. You may be surprised to hear that after I waded my way through the dark hallows of “Sashenka” and “Say You’re One of Them”, I reached for Connie’s memoir about her life as a battered woman as an uplifting change of pace. This was no mistake though. Everything this woman writes, even the dark stuff, is a special treat.

Her prose is amazingly easy to read. At times, she brings the real Florida, the one beyond the walls of Disney, to life. She describes it almost to the point where you can smell the humidity, the sea air, and the local fish camp. Other times she will tell heartbreaking tales of prejudice, abuse, spirituality, and of a phoenix-like rising up from the ashes of dysfunction. She is able to give us these gifts because of her own personal ghosts and demons, combined with her humility, creativity and goodness of heart.

As with most memoirs, this one must have taken a huge amount of courage to write. Her first stab at finding closure was her early novel “Before Woman Had Wings”, which was very close to being autobiographical. But through the support of a loving spouse and her loyal dog, Katie, and years of healing, she has bared her soul to us with this novel.

Connie is the third generation of battered women in her family, a difficult pattern of enabling behavior from which to break free. Connie suffered physical and mental abuses from her mother and father that have instilled her belief that she can never be worthy of love, never be a good enough daughter/friend/wife, never be beautiful. Predictably, as a young adult, she enters into a relationship with a local celebrity has-been, thirty years her senior, who is addicted to alcohol, abusive, jobless, and a complete ass and waste of skin. The description of this toad’s character made my skin crawl. I also wanted to personally beat the crap out of him:

“His method of schooling me is harsh, unkind even. And though I resent it, I cannot dissolve the feeling that I have brought this curse on myself, that I was born helpless and ignorant, and that he is simply fulfilling a cosmic will. For instance, just last night he accused me again of being a stupid, ungrateful c***. My mind, as it always does in the heat of this accusation, split in half. In a single instant, one side of my brain thought ‘Yes, you’re absolutely right. I deserve your wrath. Go ahead. Beat me. Please. Lay bare my shame.’ But the other side shouted, ‘Ungrateful for what? Doing your laundry? Paying your bills? Cooking your meals?’”

Through the adoption of her lab Katie, a new, empowering editorial job, new friends, getting braces to fix her buck teeth, and meeting Mika, the love of her life, she begins to gain the self-confidence to walk away:

When Katie wakes, the night will have vanished. And we will leave.”

I found myself cheering for this lovable, human woman. You want the best for her, and you know she’s going to get it. Today she, with her beautiful teeth, lives with Mika and her various pets up in the panhandle in Paradise (at least until hurricane season) near my favorite vacationing spot, St. George Island. I follow her blog, on which occasionally she will post. Just recently, she wrote a very touching tribute to her dog Katie, now in doggie heaven, for being her lifeline in the worst time of her life. The dog that slept by her side, even on the nights when they were on the kitchen floor, locked in to avoid a beating. The dog that even accompanied Connie and Mika on their honeymoon. As she says in the book, “How does one repay the loyalty, the goodness, the love of a dog?”

5 out of 5 stars


Missy B. said...

This is one of my very favorite books...I have mentioned it on my blog several times...I think I may even have reviewed it awhile back. Connie May Fowler is a strong woman and an awesome author.
Great review!!

Melody said...

Can you believe I haven't read anything by this author? I need to do so soon after reading your review!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Missy - It makes me so happy when I hear about people that have read Connie's books. She is to be admired for her strength and her amazing talent as an author. I'm doing my best to spread the word!

Melody - well, I'm just going to keep working on you girl! I have another Fowler book that I will be reviewing soon that was every bit as wonderful as the rest of her books!

Unknown said...

I think you may have mentioned Connie May Flower before - lol!!!

Sugar Cage is about 5th on my list at the moment. I am really trying to read it soon, but these book group books keep getting in the way! If Sugar Cage is good then I'll make sure I get all of the others!

The Bumbles said...

Stop making me cry in my pudding parfait (which is my sweet treat for the week - and not as yummy as I built it up to be). When are you going to review something happy?!?!?! I was holding on there through the book passages because, it made me angry as you mentioned it did for you too. But then you went and told me her dog - her best friend, the first creature to provide her unconditional love, her saviour from the cycle of abuse - has since died, and I fell apart.

Anna said...

I really need to tame by TBR pile a bit and read one of her books already. You have talked about her a lot, but I really really want to know when an author is really really worth checking out. Thanks for the review!

Diary of an Eccentric

ds said...

Oh, Sandy. What a heartbreaking life; rather, a life that would have broken anyone clearly not as strong or talented as Connie May Fowler. Three generations of abused women--shows just how difficult that cycle is to overcome...Thank you for your perfect review. Now I must read this, and reread Remembering Blue (which I only vaguely remember).

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - I knew you had purchased Sugar Cage. You are a tough customer, so I truly hope you do love her!

Bumbles - Sorry to tug at your heartstrings, and sorry about the pudding! It got to me too, having put my Lab to sleep five years ago. Plus I am just emotional about this woman's life, and am constantly awed that she could suffer as she did and still create such beautiful novels.

Anna - I think you could pick just about anything this lady has written and see her talent. Most of her books are under 300 pages...a quick read!

ds - Remembering Blue is one of my favorites. Just wait until I review "The Problem With Murmur Lee" on 7/21. That one made my eyes fill up.

Amy said...

I haven't read anything by her, but I'll definitely keep my eyes out for her work...sounds excellent!

ANovelMenagerie said...

Sounds like I need to add it to my "books to buy" list!

Literary Feline said...

This does sound good, Sandy! I read memoirs on occasion and am always on the look out for ones just like this. Thank you for the recommendation and great review!

Darlene said...

I've never read any of her books but it sure sounds like I should. They sound like very powerful books. I'll look into them. Thanks Sandy. Really great review!

Beth F said...

I too haven't read any of Fowler's books -- but I think I know you like her! This sounds so powerful.Okay, okay, I'll add her to the wish list already.

Melissa said...

I haven't read any Fowler, but this one sounds really good. On to my WL it goes!

Thoughts of Joy said...

I know of the author, but have never read any of her books. You have encouraged me - thank you! :)

Sheila DeChantal said...

Great review.... I couldnt even refill my coffee cup until I had read it all the way through.

I have not read this but I believe I will.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of her books either, but am adding her name to my list. Its really interesting to me when a fiction author gives readers perspective in to their own lives through a memoir. Barbara Kingsolver did this. There's another author (who's name I can't recall now to save my life) who wrote a number of books that were kind of family sagas. She also wrote a memoir about her father having Alzheimers. Danielle Steele wrote a memoir of sorts, though it was more of the story of her son who had bipolar disorder.

As a counselor, I work with a lot of women who put up with emotional, verbal, and even physical abuse. Oftentimes, they did have some form of abuse in their childhoods that sort of lead to them feeling, on some level, that they didn't deserve better treatment. They don't seem to recognize their "damaged goods" or "I deserve it" ways of thinking. They gravitate towards the familiar, which is abuse and being treated like an inferior and second class citizen rather than as an equal. It is always so difficult for me to listen to what these women put up with, especially when they continue putting up with it.

I commend this author for being open about her experiences and hope her story will be an encouragement to other women that they can move beyond such destructive relationships to find love and happiness. I've seen a few clients do this, but so many continue to stay and put up with the abuse. I also appreciate the story of how her dog was beside her through all this. A similar story is that of Karen Petit, a childrens' author who lives in Columbia SC. Her memoir is called A Paw On My Heart and is about her rescued black lab Ivey and the ways Ivey changed her life after a time of tremendous personal difficulty. Karen's history includes an abusive marriage also. Ivey is deceased now, also. Animals can be such a source of strength and comfort. I have had my guide dog, a yellow Lab named Maggie, for just over 12 years now. She remains healthy and happy and has served me faithfully for 10 years. She and I began working together right before my last semester of college and she was with me through grad school, obtaining my first "real" job, several boyfriends, living on my own without roommates for the first time, and so many other difficulties that go along with young adulthood.

My first guide, a black lab named Poppy, retired young due to anxiety issues. At the time, I was devastated, but I later realized that her real purpose in our family was not to work for me for a long time. That was just to bring her to us. Her ultimate purpose was to be with my Mom through some very difficult transitions in her own life. She needed Poppy more than I did, as I could go on to work with a dog who was better suited for me. Mom took Poppy in because she knew how important it was to me that Poppy remain in the family soI could still spend time with her. She put up with Poppy's fear of storms that lead to damage to Mom's home, shredded blankets, and some sleepless nights. They took care of each other through some tough times when Mom needed someone to look after and needed the company. I'm thankful they were able to help each other that way. I've written tributes to both Maggie and Poppy on my blog.

This certainly sounds like a book I can't wait to read, especially since it has a happy ending for the author.

Carmella Broome, Licensed Professional Counselor in SC
Author, Carmella's Quest: Taking On College Sight Unseen (Red Letter Press 2009)