BY H. A. LEUSCHEL
PUBLICATION: CREATESPACE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING PLATFORM; 1 EDITION; JUNE 28, 2016
Synopsis: 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.
“Manipulated Lives” is a very interesting collection of short stories with the overall theme of manipulation – what it does to the victims, as well as, the one doing the manipulating. The stories included are:
- Tess and Tattoos – an elderly woman that survived abuse and manipulation after making a life-changing decision
- The Spell – Sophie meets a young boy and his father and is pulled into taking care of the boy and a manipulative, dishonest relationship with the father
- Runaway Girl – Holly who plans to run away from home but later bonds with her mother after being hurt and manipulated by a boyfriend
- The Narcissist – a man has been so dishonest and manipulative to his family that he has blocked out the pain he caused others
- My Perfect Child – Lisa spoils her son from birth and suffers a lifetime with a manipulative and self-entitled child
I think my favorite stories were Tess’ and Sophie’s, but I was absolutely fascinated with all of them. Tess’ story truly touched me, especially the information her son shares at the end. It emphasized what she left behind for a life that later became hell and just how regretful she was. Sophie’s story seemed the most realistic to me because I can easily see a kind, caring woman getting sucked into a situation like she did. I liked Holly’s story but it’s almost as if the writer tried to “dumb-down” the wording and dialogue in that story, perhaps to make it more likely to be from a 16-year old’s perspective, but it did impact my overall opinion of that story. The Narcissist and My Perfect Child had the most psychological elements, truly showing the damage that occurs to the manipulator and those manipulated over long periods of time.
“Manipulated Lives” is definitely not a light-hearted, easy read because of the emotions that are addressed, but is a book worth reading. The author tapped an interesting idea with this themed collection of short stories, unlike anything I have read before. If you enjoy literary fiction that explores psychological issues, then you will be a fan of this book. I hope to read more from this unique and talented writer in the future.
Purchase “Manipulated Lives” on Amazon.
*Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.