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.
I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the author.
I don’t often read novellas that aren’t tied to a series I’m reading, but Manipulated Lives intrigued me, given the subject matter. The five novellas in this anthology are well written. The abuser is always appropriately subtle in their manipulations—easily spotted by the reader, of course, but never so overt that the abused person in the story is able to see their true colors right away. The confusion and upset the abused character feels as a result is always in perfect balance with the level of the mind game being played at the moment.
Because this is a collection of novellas, I won’t get into any specific details of the plots, as that could easily ruin it for other readers. What I will say is this: Of the five stories, the ones I enjoyed the most were “The Narcissist”, “Runaway Girl”, and “My Perfect Child”. If I had to pick just one, it would be “The Narcissist” because I found that particular story to be the most chilling of all. A close second is “My Perfect Child”. The ending for that one wasn’t what I was expecting, giving it even more impact.
Books that deal with the darker aspects of humanity are meant to make you feel uncomfortable. The villain should bring about a range of emotions, anywhere from mild uneasiness to abject horror (depending on the situation). Their chosen victim should be someone you can root for, someone who is ultimately strong enough to break free of the abuser’s web of deception and control in a way that is believable. Manipulated Lives hits the mark on both counts.
Author: H.A. Leuschel
Title: Manipulated Lives
Genre: Short Story
Published: June 8th 2016 by Helene Leuschel