fiction about healing from abuse
July 21, 2021 9:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm reading Big Little Lies and it's doing me a lot of good. Looking for recommendations for similar books.

What I think I like about it is that it's about the psychological parts of abuse, not just during, but especially healing in the aftermath. I am in the putting-myself-together stage and it's proving really helpful to feel like (a) I'm not alone; and (b) there is a way through this.

What I seek is the following:

- No references, self-help, etc. I'm doing that and have resources for that. What I want are stories. True or false doesn't matter, but rich in character and emotional understanding and nuance.

- Doesn't need to be physical abuse. Emotional only is fine. Could also just be a really toxic and unhealthy relationship that requires healing from.

- There needs to have something in there about healing in the aftermath. I don't want a story which ends with leaving the abuser. What I want to see examples of is how to put myself together again. (It's fine if a good portion of the story does occur with the abuser; it just can't end there.)

- Ideally it would be good if the abuser wasn't a cardboard villain. I think they rarely are and what makes these things hard is when there was real love and obligation there. (If the story is otherwise good, then recommend it anyway, but my ideal would be for everyone involved to be recognisably human).

- I'm aware that most stories will probably have male abusers but I would especially appreciate (if possible) stories with different gender dynamics -- female abusers, queer or otherwise non-traditional relationships, etc.
posted by sir jective to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like Wild by Cheryl Strayed might resonate. It's not exactly about healing from abuse but from grief, toxic relationships, and self-destructive impulses. It has the kind of compassion and psychological focus that I think might foster healing. Wishing you well.
posted by Threeve at 9:40 PM on July 21 [3 favorites]

Probably the best book I've ever read featuring abuse is In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. Part memoir, part social history of abuse in queer (particularly lesbian) relationships. Most of it takes place during the abusive period, and I should note that she's a (literary) horror writer so perhaps approach with caution, but it's so so good.

Due to my own personal history, I found Educated deeply relatable and oddly comforting from a familial abuse situation (including deep gaslighting, complete disowning, and healing).
posted by Paper rabies at 10:53 PM on July 21 [9 favorites]

I tend to recommend Kristin Cashore's Graceling trilogy for this topic, even though it's kind of a curveball (YAish fantasy). There are hints of these themes in the first book (the protagonist coming into her own after being raised by an uncle who's intimidated by her gifts), but they really get going in the second and third books, both of which deal with different characters wrestling with a similar problem - how to move on and build a good life when you (and basically everyone around you) has PTSD because of your dad.
posted by terretu at 1:31 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]

I would second In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado too. Fits all your criteria. And wonderful, if experimental, wriitng!
posted by moiraine at 2:22 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes, is an excellent book about a woman mourning the death of her husband, whom she had just decided to leave when he passed away suddenly. Nobody else knew what he was like at home, so the struggle to deal with her feelings about it vs. what everyone else expected was part of it. It's a really lovely book.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:51 AM on July 22 [5 favorites]

I think Ordinary People might fit the bill; movies not bad either.
posted by Bron at 8:59 AM on July 22 [4 favorites]

Healing from abuse is one several narrative strands that make up the storyline in "Avatar: The Last Airbender". I'll quote an earlier comment of mine about the show, quoting something I read someone else say: " Zuko's arc [is] the best depiction ever made on television of the process through which some survivors of abuse in childhood unlearn the mythology that legitimized their abuse."
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:00 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]

YA recommendations: Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallero & Emily Henry ("It took a while, but finally they settled, soothing the monsters that lived in their skin back to sleep." ) & The Girls I've Been by Tess Sharpe ("I haven’t been small this whole time. I’ve just been waiting to unfurl.")
posted by frizzle at 7:18 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

Being Lolita by Alisson Wood
posted by mbrubeck at 7:19 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

also the Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro
posted by mbrubeck at 7:48 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

The woman who walked into doors.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 9:22 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! These are all wonderful and I think I'm going to work my way through them all. I just finished In The Dream House and as promised it was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for (plus so well written! and I loved the queer elements of it as I am not exactly cis-het).
posted by sir jective at 4:23 AM on July 23

I'm a little late but Chanel Miller's Know My Name is a must read.

Do you remember the Stanford Rape case? And Emily Doe's victim impact statement that went viral? That's her.

This book will knock you off your feet. It is an incredible masterpiece, no word of a lie. It is exactly about having everything stripped away from you because of a very traumatic experience (and the court process was also very traumatic), and how you stay and become whole again. While the rapist was a privileged, straight white male, she is Chinese-American and that was definitely impactful for me (I am Chinese Canadian :) Caution: if you're a survivor of sexual assault/abuse, it might be very hard to read so definitely take your time with it.
posted by foxjacket at 8:05 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

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