Genre: Short Stories
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.
Back in November I had Leuschel here for a Q & A, you can find that here, it gives a little insight into what inspired her to write Manipulated Lives and also her writing process.
I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and the idea behind this collection of short stories was really intriguing to me. It consists of five short stories that all center around the theme of manipulation. This form of abuse is frightening as it is so easy for people to fall under the spell of someone who wants to use them and take advantage of their vulnerabilities.
All of the stories were interesting in their own way and I enjoyed reading each one of them, but of the five stories two were standouts for me, The Runaway Girl and The Perfect Child. TRG focuses on Holly, a fifteen year old desperate for freedom. She’s a typical teenager, full of hopes and dreams and when she meets a new boy at her school, Luke, she is swept off of her feet. She can’t believe the cutest boy in school is actually interested in her. Unfortunately for her, Luke is a classic manipulator and quickly begins playing games with her. TPC is the story of Lisa, a woman who became a mother later in life to her son, Lucas. She’s the victim and he’s the abuser in this story and she spent most of her life making excuses for his abhorrent behavior. As a mother I can understand how it would be hard to admit your own child was this type of person, I think we’ve all met people who excuse their children’s behavior.
This was a quick read and a fairly engrossing one, it’s heavy on the psychology behind manipulation and what drives people to behave this way. The saddest part for me was that people have no idea they’re being manipulated and abused until it’s far too late.
Overall rating: 3.5/5
Thanks to the author for my review copy.