Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Again and Again - Ellen Bravo

First line: "Let her be from New York City."

Before there were terms like "feminism" and "date rape" Deborah Borenstein knew her future would involve work on behalf of women. In college she helped found a group called Stop It Now, but it was the rape of her roommate and best friend, Liddie, that forever changed Deborah's life.

Returning to her room early from the library one night, Deborah walked in on Will Quincy forcing himself on Liddie. Quincy, an athletic frat boy, was a hot shot on campus and his family were large donors. Liddie had been drinking at a party with him and they were seen kissing by the other members of Quincy frat. Liddie knew she'd be labeled a slut and no one would believe her, but Deborah encouraged her to report the rape. Deborah was a witness after all and they had pictures of the ugly bruises Quincy had left behind all over Liddie's body.

Thirty years later Deborah is the director of Breaking the Silence, working in the political circles of Washington DC to help fight sexual violence against women, when she learns Will Quincy is running for a Senate seat from Delaware. She's being pressured by an aggressive journalist to out Quincy as a rapist, but to do so means drudging everything up for Liddie again. To make matters worse, her husband has landed a job on Quincy's opponent's campaign team. He also wants Deborah to reveal Quincy's past in order to help his career.

Being pulled in all directions Deborah is only sure of one thing. No matter what choice she makes, someone she loves is going to be devastated.

Again and Again is an emotionally powerful book with so many vital ideas packed in the pages. The first and foremost is of course the issue of date rape. Society has come a long way in thirty years, but the problem is far from solved. Bravo illustrates continuing barriers that plague victims: assumptions they did something to warrant being raped,  social or economic power their rapists wield over them, lack of compassion and understanding for the psychological effects of the assault, etc.

Another large part in the novel is the idea of empowering women. One faction Deborah deals with believes victims are only empowered if they face their rapists. But Bravo emphasizes how that just isn't the case. Empowering these women means giving them their right to make the choices that are right for them.

A third, less prominent but still vital issue is that of money's continuing influence in our justice system. Wealthy perpetrators are better able to afford lawyers who can manipulate the system and ultimately punish the victims.

Bravo doesn't try to make this story cut and dry, black and white, right and wrong. The issue is a complex, complicated and messy one. The novel makes that very clear.

In Again and Again's case, the victims are empathetic and readers will easily feel compassion for them.  The evolution of date rape--from giving it a name to dealing with how law enforcement handles it to psychologically treating the victims in its aftermath--is tactfully presented with an enlightening approach.

This is a book to share with your sisters, daughters, granddaughters. It's a book to share with your brothers, sons or grandsons. Everyone can benefit from understanding victims better. Even though Again and Again is fiction, it has the ability to shed light on the dark corners of sexual violence against women. It kept me spellbound well into the wee hours and I highly recommend it.

Again and Again is available in paperback from She Writes Press (9781631529399).

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My review today is part of the TLC book tour for Again and Again. Check the schedule to see what other bloggers are saying about this powerful book.

Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.


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