Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: Against My Will by Benjamin Berkley

Against My Will
by Benjamin Berkley
Frederick Fell Publishers, Inc., September 1, 2012
242 pages

Note: updated to correct my goof when typing the book's title both in the post and in the post title. :(

This story is difficult to read dealing as it does with two disturbing subjects--marital rape and the Holocaust.  The first part alternates between the first person narrative of a young woman about to walk down the isle full of trepidation and angst as she ponders the choices leading her to this day and the diary entries of a young Holocaust survivor recording the ordeal of the camp she has just been liberated from.  It is several chapters in before we learn that the bride is the granddaughter of the camp survivor.

Danielle's trepidation turns out to be well founded.  She had made the worst mistake imaginable marrying Jacob as she was just on the cusp of gaining personal independence after passing the New York Bar.  And for little better reason than to please her father who was anxious for grandkids and had gone to the trouble of arranging their meeting on her 29th birthday.  Jacob had conducted a clumsy courtship but nothing about it really prepared her for the way he would behave after the wedding.  He treated her like property, displaying no affection, often raging over trivia, controlling their money, denigrating her and her choice to continue working rather than start a family and then on their six month anniversary forcing himself on her in a brutal rape.

When she tries to tell her father he refuses to hear, insisting that marital disputes are normal and can be worked through and shaming her for airing hers in public.  It is her NaNa Rose who not only hears but knows exactly what to do.  The threads of her NaNa Rose's story are nicely woven into her own so that the themes reverberate.

The rest of the story follows Danielle on her quest to regain her spirit and dignity and learn to trust in the possibility of love again.  It is wonderful to watch Danielle blossom into the confident prosecutor who takes on a marital rape case on behalf of the victim.  And the sweet love story in the last half is in stark contrast to the abusive relationship with Jacob and emphasizes that new beginnings are what life is all about.

From the Publishers:

AGAINST MY WILL is the life changing novel about Danielle, a victim of marital abuse, who finds the strength to leave her husband and pursue a career in law.

Danielle Landau knows she should feel lucky, but she can't feel anything but dread. Not only did she pass the New York Bar, but she married the man her father says is just right for her and lives in a fashionable new loft in Queens. But the man who seems like the perfect catch is a perfect nightmare at home. Jacob tries to control her career, her daily routine, and even what she eats. He ignores her desires and belittles her every chance he gets. Soon, Danielle doesn't recognize her husband or herself, and she struggles to find a way out.

Danielle tries to talk to her father but he dismisses her marital problems.  But she can confide in her Nana Rose, a Holocaust survivor who lost her entire family at the hands of the Nazis. Rose helped raise Danielle and her brother when their mother died when Danielle was only three.  Having faced death, Rose is Danielle's source of security.  But while Danielle holds on to the fragile belief that her father's prince charming will change, she is raped by her husband on the night of their one year wedding anniversary.

Now, Danielle has to escape.  And with the help of her beloved Nana, Danielle moves across the country and starts to rebuild her life. But will she be able to escape her past? And when one of her clients finds herself in the same terrible situation, will Danielle have the strength to help her?
As we follow Danielle on her journey of terror and recovery, we see her story intersect with the diary entries of her Nana as a young girl held captive in a concentration camp.  The entries begin with Rose waking up in a hospital after the liberation of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.    Graphically she recounts the train ride to the camp and the emotional separation of her from her family upon arrival.    And the full weight of the family's secrets becomes clear. This is a story of survival, self-discovery, justice, and ultimately, it's about love.

What they are saying:

"AGAINST MY WILL was a great reminder that it is possible to find the strength and get out of a unhealthy situation.  I loved this book and was rooting for Danielle through it. The writing to be so great that you could immerse yourself into the book and get lost within the characters.   I definitely recommend everyone to read this story and remember that no one has the right to belittle, abuse or neglect another human." Jayda, Two Children and a Migraine

"Without rehashing my own past nightmares, I will tell you a couple times this book hit home for me. I actually had to put it down, walk away and come back to it after I calmed. It's such a dreadful life to have to live, and I'll be honest, I'm surprised a male author was able to evoke the right emotions in me when the story is told from a female perspective. But he did, and very well at that."  Freda's Voice

"Against My Will" deals with a tough subject that many will relate to. I found the diary entries of Rose to be quite interesting and honestly it took me a while to figure out that Rose was actually Danielle's Nana, which made the story so much more poignant. Overall, a compelling read that allows us to see a victim reclaim her life. " Brenda, VW Stitcher

"This was a really great book with a lot of detail that sucks you in.   I didn't want it to end. When I was in university I studied the Holocaust and the tragedy that happened during that time. I also visited a concentration camp in Germany and the Holocaust museum in D.C. SO reading this book really felt real and the author was really able to capture what felt like a true story with Rose. He really did his research. I would recommend this book. to.  It has a lot of everything for almost everyone."  Bassgiraffe's Thoughts

" It was well written and entertaining, even with the difficult subject." Mindy, Books, Books and More Books

" This book is expertly written, and it is hard to believe that it is written by a man.  I am always amazed when men can create convincing female protagonists in books, and even in first person!  This is Benjamin Berkley's first novel, but I hope it won't be his last.  I think I need to look up his non-fiction based on this book alone.  It is clear that he is quite an expert on this topic.  I found it absolutely genius on the author's part to tie a Holocaust survivor's story to the current story of the book.  This added just the right amount of intrigue, and of course, the ending of the book is quite powerful in this "side story.  I believe that any woman who feels they can handle the subject and content of this book should read this book.  I can also recommend it to men, too, as it is not some "chick book."  Oh, and by the way, there is some romance in this book-for all those romance lovers out there! 5 out of 5!" Ruth, My Devotional Thoughts

" This is a very emotional read with well-developed characters. You'll be there wanting to comfort Danielle at her wedding and through the many trials she faces. You'll also want to strangle those that love her but just can't see the pain she is in. You'll cheer when she takes a stand and risks it all. By the end of the book I was sobbing.  The best part of it all was the excerpts from a diary that can be found after every other chapter or so. There are from Danielle's grandmother from when she was rescued from a concentration camp. You read how the courage to stand against those that oppress and declare, "Not Against My Will", kept them alive.  Mr. Berkley has done an excellent job of writing from an abused woman's perspective. I was truly amazed at the results.  I think you can see in what I have just written that this book contains some violence. There are several rape scenes, verbal abuse scenes, and some graphic descriptions of sexual encounters as Danielle and her grandmother face horror in each of their lives. Yet, this is a story of hope that makes you smile as you cry." Rebecca Graf, A Book Lover's Library

Benjamin Berkley is the author of four self-help books:  "My Wishes, Your Plan for Organizing Your Family's Needs" (Sourcebooks, June, 2006)   "The Complete Executor's Guide" (Sourcebooks, June 2007)   "Winning Your Social Security Disability Case" (Sourcebooks, February, 2008) and "Before You Say I Do Again, A Buyer's Beware Guide to Remarriage." (Frederick Fell Publishers, September, 2009). "Against My Will" is Benjamin Berkley's fifth book and debut novel.

And though writing is his passion, for over 34 years he has conducted a busy law practice in which he has seen many interesting clients come through his door.  One in particular, an older woman with white hair, the kindest smile, and an amazing story became the inspiration for one of his characters for "Against My Will."   Berkley lives in southern California with his wife Phyllis and their cat Riley.   He has two grown children and is always bragging about his most beautiful grandson and granddaughter.

Follow the blog tour for more reviews, giveaways, author interviews and guest posts:

2 tell me a story:

Julia Phillips Smith 2/20/2013 8:27 AM  

That was a great review, Joy Renee - I loved how you gave your own reaction, plus the 'what they're saying' section.

And now: you've been tagged for The Next Big Thing. Pop over to my blog for the details.

Teddy Rose 2/20/2013 9:11 PM  

Thanks for taking part in the tour. I'm so glad you appreciated Against My Will.

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