Please join me as I review Novy’s Son by Karen Ingalls.
From his early childhood, Murray Clark sought love and acceptance from his father, who was raised as the bastard child of a famous artist. Murray struggled with jealousy toward his younger brothers, and he questioned the morals and values of people around him.
As an adult, Matthew lived life his way, with years of lying, womanizing, and heavy drinking. Though married four times, did he ever find unconditional love? Would Murray’s high intelligence, his love for his two daughters, and his unique philosophy of life help him rise above his demons?
MY BOOK REVIEW. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I love reading, and finding an author I’ve never read before is always a time of excitement and anticipation.
It has been a long time since I’ve become so immersed in a book. The total commitment that Author Karen Ingalls has to her characters shines through immediately. The connection is a strong one, and this author has lovingly attended to detail.
I’ve read other reviews, and I concur that the central character of Murray is easy to loathe, his behavior towards others is utterly selfish, and his inability to show loyalty to anyone or anything makes him easy to despise. However, I also found that despite all of his unrecognized, sociopathic lack of conscience, despite the utter selfishness and disregard for the needs of his family there is something oddly comforting about the hard, cold reality of Murray.
There are people just like Murray, people you may well recognize as you read, who fail to react to the very crisis they have themselves created; stumbling forward without regret; living without remorse as if everyone elses life exists purely to satisfy their own narcissistic emotional blindness.
As the decades unfurl this author invites you to witness the train wreck approaching, as Murray selfishly burns out whoever dares to love him. The scattered remains of his family nurse their collective wounds and watch on helplessly as he lurches from one addiction to the next. Murray had no idea how to feel compassion for others. He was far too busy imagining how people were scheming against him. His every failure shrugged off with a casual disregard for the scattered hearts damaged by his lack of one.
The time frames are so clearly visible; the social mores and edicts of each decade unfolding in a wonderful kaleidoscope of sound and color. You are taken to that time, that place and the author ensures that the journey is memorable.
This book is more than just a brief journey into the life of an ultimately selfish and self-destructive man. It is an exposure of raw nerve endings; it lays the human heart and soul on the line and you the reader watch as the predators attack. I found it to be riveting and quite unforgettable.
Closing your eyes to the horror of Child Abuse doesn’t make it go away. The problems associated with this kind of abuse continue unabated because some people just don’t know the signs. They have no idea what to look for, and no idea of how to deal with a child that may come to them for help.
Hopefully the following information will assist, at the very least it will help you to understand what warning signs to watch for.
Child sexual abuse is an especially complicated form of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. It’s important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn’t always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.
While news stories of sexual predators are scary, what is even more frightening is that sexual abuse usually occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and should be able to trust—most often close relatives. And contrary to what many believe, it’s not just girls who are at risk. Boys and girls both suffer from sexual abuse. In fact, sexual abuse of boys may be under reported due to shame and stigma.
The problem of shame and guilt in child sexual abuse
Aside from the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, the emotional component is powerful and far-reaching. Sexually abused children are tormented by shame and guilt. They may feel that they are responsible for the abuse or somehow brought it upon themselves. This can lead to self-loathing and sexual problems as they grow older—often either excessive promiscuity or an inability to have intimate relations.The shame of sexual abuse makes it very difficult for children to come forward. They may worry that others won’t believe them, will be angry with them, or that it will split their family apart. Because of these difficulties, false accusations of sexual abuse are not common, so if a child confides in you, take him or her seriously. Don’t turn a blind eye!
Warning signs of child abuse and neglect…
The earlier child abuse is caught, the better the chance of recovery and appropriate treatment for the child. Child abuse is not always obvious. By learning some of the common warning signs of child abuse and neglect, you can catch the problem as early as possible and get both the child and the abuser the help that they need.Of course, just because you see a warning sign doesn’t automatically mean a child is being abused. It’s important to dig deeper, looking for a pattern of abusive behavior and warning signs, if you notice something off
.Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
- Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
- Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
- Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
- Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums)
- Warning signs of Physical abuse
- Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
- Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
- Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
- Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
- Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Warning signs of neglect in children
- Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
- Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
- Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
- Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
- Is frequently late or missing from school.
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
- Trouble walking or sitting.
- Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
- Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
- Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
- An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
- Runs away from home.
All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school.
Some effects include:
- Lack of trust and relationship difficulties. If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child—that you will safely, reliably get your physical and emotional needs met by the person who is responsible for your care. Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of being controlled or abused. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.
- Core feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged.” If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. You may experience them as reality. Adults may not strive for more education, or settle for a job that may not pay enough, because they don’t believe they can do it or are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often especially struggle with a feeling of being damaged.
- Trouble regulating emotions. Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings
There are several types of child abuse, but the core element that ties them together is the emotional effect on the child. Children need predictability, structure, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety. Abused children cannot predict how their parents will act.
Their world is an unpredictable, frightening place with no rules. Whether the abuse is a slap, a harsh comment, stony silence, or not knowing if there will be dinner on the table tonight, the end result is a child that feel unsafe, uncared for, and alone.
- Emotional child abuse “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” What a load of rubbish! Contrary to this old saying, emotional abuse can severely damage a child’s mental health or social development, leaving lifelong psychological scars.
- Examples of emotional child abuse include:
- Constant belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child.
- Calling names and making negative comparisons to others.
- Telling a child he or she is “no good,” “worthless,” “bad,” or “a mistake.”
- Frequent yelling, threatening, or bullying.
- Ignoring or rejecting a child as punishment, giving him or her the silent treatment.
- Limited physical contact with the child—no hugs, kisses, or other signs of affection.
- Exposing the child to violence or the abuse of others, whether it be the abuse of a parent, a sibling, or even a pet.
Helping an abused or neglected child.
What should you do if you suspect that a child has been abused? How do you approach him or her? Or what if a child comes to you? It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and confused in this situation. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even harder to talk about.Just remember, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child, especially if you take steps to stop the abuse early. When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support. Let your actions speak for you if you’re having trouble finding the words. Remember that talking about the abuse may be very difficult for the child. It’s your job to reassure the child and provide whatever help you can.Tips for talking to an abused child
- Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
- Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his or her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
- Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.
- Safety comes first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you try to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later after the initial professional intervention.
Reporting child abuse—anonymously;
If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives.Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse.
- I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
- What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home—unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
- They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most places, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
- It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
When reporting child abuse
Reporting child abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, or question if your voice will even be heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in difficult situations:
- Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, “The parents are not dressing their children right,” say something like, “I saw the child running outside three times last week in subzero weather without a jacket or hat. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable. He seemed to want to come inside.” However, remember that it is not your job to “prove” abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.
If you see future incidences, continue to call and report them. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.
“Empty Chairs” by S Burke writing as Stacey Danson. My life … my book.
“Empty Chairs” More than a story of Child Abuse. (Standing Tall and Fighting Back 1.)
“Physically and emotionally, everything that made me who and what I was was destroyed. But, they never got my soul. They didn’t break me. Something in me refuses to be broken. I don’t know what the hell you call it, but it’s strong. It burns inside me with a life force of its own.”
“Powerful and Unforgettable”
How lucky I am to have had that said about my book, “Empty Chairs”
Just Two of the 300 plus reviews for Empty Chairs
Bill Kirton rated it 5 Star..
Some of my friends have said of this book that they want to read it but, knowing the pain and horrors it chronicles, need to get themselves into the right frame of mind to do so. Others have admitted that they doubt whether they’ll actually get round to it. They should and must – for several reasons.
It’s an autobiographical story, written under a pseudonym, which reveals how a 3 year old was subjected to gross sexual abuses at the behest of her own mother, and forced to continue servicing visitors to the house until eventually, at the age of eleven, she ran away. Thereafter, life on the streets proved equally stressful, threatening to confirm all the negatives she felt about how people behave.
Perhaps that crude synopsis has made you join the ‘I’m not sure I could read this – it’s too horrible’ camp. If it has, it’s deprived you of an astonishing experience. Because this is a page turner and, bizarrely, a sort of celebration. I know that’s a cliché beloved of Amazon reviewers, but here it’s a fact. The story is relentlessly riveting. There’s tension, hidden (and not so hidden) forces at work, powerful characters, and observations of social interaction that are penetrating insights into what lurks behind the facades of sunny, happy-go-lucky Australia, where families picnic in the sun and glory in sights such as the fabulous Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The abuse inflicted on the infant Sassy-Girl (let’s use the street name she earned) was not at the hands of social low-lifes, but ‘respectable’ middle class professionals. When she eventually rebels and runs away, she has to find places to sleep, clothes to wear, ways to get food, and simultaneously avoid the pressure from pimps to recruit her into their stable. She experiences some kindnesses but her whole life seems to have been a denial that trust is possible between humans. When groups of girls at the zoo mock her for the clothes she’s wearing, she asks ‘why do people do those things? What was it that gave those girls the right to make fun of something they didn’t understand?’ adding that ‘It would take a very long time to discover how common that trait was in humans’.
It would have been so easy (in theory) to succumb to prostitution to earn her keep, but the abuse she suffered makes her determined never to allow her body to be used again. As she says ‘I knew my soul would die anyway if I made a conscious decision to sell the child’s body in which it was housed. I wasn’t being brave, or strong. I simply knew that all of me would survive – or none of me would. What point would there be living without my soul and my spirit?’
An author’s note at the beginning speaks of the compulsion Danson had to write this, the promise she’d made to someone to do so, but she also admits that it’s taken longer to get round to it than she thought it would. And that’s part of the spell this narrative weaves. We’re getting the intimate day to day experiences of a 12 year old – the encounters, the threats, the violence, the alienation – but they’re all being recounted by the mature woman she survived to become.
And the narrator herself is aware of this, of course. This is a woman who knows how to write, how to use language, sometimes simply, always directly, to engage the reader, a woman who has come to know that friendships and trust are possible, and yet who’s re-entering the mind of her pre-teen self and reliving those years, with their innocence and ignorance. Because Sassy-Girl is uneducated (in formal terms). She thinks everyone speaks Australian (except Americans, whom she’s seen on TV and who speak American). ‘If someone had told me we all spoke English,’ she says, ‘I would have been even more confused.
At times, the mature narrator lends her voice to the girl. When she makes her way to the War Memorial, for example, she says she ‘spent the rest of the night in the company of the spirits of people who had died in a nightmare as well’. And there’s an awareness of the power of simplicity in sentences such as ‘I wanted to laugh and mean it’, or ‘It reminded me of the way I cried, back when I still could.’
But these aren’t intended to be criticisms. The moment Sassy-Girl suspects she’s feeling self-pity, she forces herself out of it. She’s a survivor and, despite all the torments she’s endured in these early years, what remains is an affirmation of her spirit, a confidence that, despite the enormous forces ranged against her, she won’t be a loser. It’s a compelling read, a reminder of the deepest evils of which we’re capable, but also a celebration of our ability to overcome.
If you’re the victim of child abuse, know someone who is, or work with victims of child abuse, Stacy Danson’s autobiographical account of the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her mother from age three until she ran away at eleven is the book for you.
Empty Chairs is, as the subtitle says, “much more than a story about child abuse.” It is about the resilience and triumph of a girl whose street name was “Sassy”, who not only survived the horror of sexual abuse and her mother’s sadism, but survived life on the streets of her native Sydney, Australia as a tough-as-nails, don’t-take-no-crap runaway. At age of eleven, she made a mature decision about her life: “No one was ever going to force me to do anything again. Such are the thoughts of a child whose experience of the world started in hell.”
Living on the streets at any age is no walk in the park; living on the streets as a young girl can be fatal. Stacy Danson learned its lessons quickly: Trust no one, stay out of the way of the pimps and other predators that prey on attractive girls, make yourself invisible. In spite of all the precautions, it doesn’t always work, and didn’t for Stacy. Key to her survival was running into a tightly-knit group of fourteen street kids who took her in, provided her a home, and protected her.
Why does she tell her story some forty years after her life on Sidney’s streets ended? Simply put, it was time. “Recent events in my small world have caused me to think deeply about the responsibility I have, that we all have, to make people aware of what can and does happen in a home that may well be right next door to you.”
In her case, the neighborhood was an upper middle class one where her abusers were respected members of the community. One of her steady abusers was a family physician. Another was a sadistic cop. If she cried, her mother beat her, sometimes viciously. Did anyone hear her screams? If they did, no one said a word. It ended at age eleven when she beat her mother up, stole her money, and left.
The central tragedy of childhood sexual abuse is the damage it does, physically and emotionally, to the victim. Here is what Ms. Danson says about it: “Physically and emotionally, everything that made me who and what I was was destroyed. But,” she continues, “they never got my soul. They didn’t break me. Something in me refuses to be broken. I don’t know what the hell you call it, but it’s strong. It burns inside me with a life force of its own.”
“I firmly believe that everything that happened has helped to make me who I am, and I am kind of fond of who I am these days. It has taken half a century to get here, but here I am.” Indeed, here she is: from an abused kid who trusted no one and wouldn’t let anyone touch her, Stacy Danson has grown into a compassionate woman, loving mother and fine writer. I look forward to reading more from her