Shelby's life isn't glamorous, but it is predictable-and that's the way she likes it. A survivor of her father's violence, she has spent a lifetime creating a safe existence devoid of dependence. But her carefully managed world begins to break when, under staggering circumstances, she becomes a single mother to four-year-old Shayla. In a drastic attempt to escape her childhood's influence, Shelby moves to Germany, but she quickly discovers how intimately linked memory and healing are-and how honestly she must scrutinize her past in order to aspire to a richer future. As she juggles a new job, a new culture, a new daughter, and the attention of an enterprising man, Shelby's fresh start becomes a quest for the courage to be not only a survivor, but someone who prevails.
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This is a novel that draws you in and invites you to become emotionally involved.
Shelby, in her mid-thirties, is a survivor. She and her brother survived their violent father and meek mother. Shelby's crafted a life for herself – a safe life. But her well crafted life begins to crumble when she find out she has been asked to be the guardian of a four year old girl. That crumbling of her safe life is the beginning of the healing she has needed, yet run away from, for too long.
The major theme that drew me into this novel deals with how much of an influence our childhood is on who we are as adults. Shelby is terrified that she will become violent like her father. She fears it is in her genes.
The author deftly combines the current life of Shelby with short vignettes of her childhood. We see how her current actions have grown out of a childhood experiences.
As a reader, that really made me think about my own adult life, my childhood experiences, and how the two are related. In another book I read recently the author said our brains are generally hard wired by the age of six. The experiences we have in early childhood are very formative. As we see the adult Shelby act in response to childhood experiences, we have to ponder our own lives and actions.
Right along with the theme of childhood influence on adulthood is the theme of healing. How do we heal those broken places? God does the healing, of course, but how do we make ourselves available for Him to do it? What are the areas where we have not allowed those scars to be healed? Essential to that healing is forgiveness, another element of this novel.
This novel is very well written. It is so well written I was immediately drawn into the story. I was a captive reader from beginning to end. But I had to stop several times and think about what I had just read. This is a thought provoking novel as well as a captivating one. It is one I'll be thinking about for some time.
There is a discussion guide at the end of the book. This would make an excellent book for a reading group. There is a great deal of thoughtful material in it.
I received a complimentary galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Plot: This was a very redemptive story that, while predictable at times, was highly enjoyable. There were, really, several plots at play in this story, making the overall story line very enticing.
Characters: The character development in this story was excellent. The flashbacks allow you to get a first hand look into Shelby's childhood and understand her from her perspective. Even in the present, you watch Shelby's world transform right up to the very last words.
Themes: I would have to say that the biggest themes in this story are trust and overcoming the past. Shelby had to overcome what the past made her and move on with her life. In doing so, she had to learn to trust in others as well as herself.
Emotion: During the flashbacks, there is a lot of emotion. You can feel the fear and the apprehension of Shelby and Trey as they endure their father's wrath. Because of the emotion in the flashbacks, you can better understand the emotions that Shelby feels in the present.
Overall: I really liked this book. There was a lot going on, but not too much to overstimulate you. The way that you have to piece some of the story together, makes it more interesting to read too. You are left wanting to find out what you can about Shayla.
---I received this book for free from the publisher for this review.---
This was a unique story and I loved the realism. As a social worker who has worked with dysfunctional families for a quarter of a century, there isn't much I haven't seen. There are so many adults in this world who are still a bit crippled by their past. Instead of responding to love, they run screaming in the other direction. Instead of bonding in normal, healthy relationships, they have a trauma bond with another victim who is usually a sibling.
I found the book quite deep and a fantastic way to show how God uses the most unlikely situations sometimes to heal people and open them up to genuine love. The catch is we still have to let the person in and keep fear out of the equation. So we have to cling to perfect love, which casts out all fear.
That said, I don't want to post any spoilers, so I won't give away the plot points. I will say this... I liked how the author went into the past and shared a little bit more of their childhood with each scene. The book was told from the heroine's point of view and never strayed.
The author used a lot of visceral emotion to describe feelings, which I loved. The author also did a cute job describing her heart and stomach and how they did ice skating moves in response to exciting and new emotions. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to understand the odd responses of people who were abused as children.
This book doesn't go into sexual abuse or gory details, but it does show the abject fear that children live with who have an angry, unpredictable parent and a passive one who doesn't know what to do to protect the children. It's very insightful and beautifully written. Bravo! I would definitely read other books by this author.
This is definitely not your typical warm and fuzzy kind of book but it is very good nonetheless. The author writes about a very difficult topic and how abuse not only affects the person at the moment but how it scars them.
Michele Phoenix does an excellent job with writing this story and about the struggles associated with abuse. This is certainly not a topic we want to hear about but it's one we need to learn from. Unfortunately, abuse is more common than some people realize.
Thanks to the author, Michele Phoenix, for writing such a good book. I give this novel 4.5 stars
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Review 5 for In Broken Places - eBook
Date:July 8, 2013
Thirty-five-year-old Shelby Davis’s life is thrown for a loop when her father dies and leaves his young daughter in her care. The thing is, he’d abandoned her and her brother when they were children after years of physically and emotionally abusing them and their mother. She’s battled the effects of his cruelty for so long, and doesn’t know if she has what it takes to become a mother to four-year-old Shayla.
Shelby takes her sister, now daughter, along with her to Germany as she starts life anew teaching English at a missionary school. It is there that she meets fellow instructor, Scott, who pursues a relationship with her—another thing she doesn’t feel ready for. Fear has ruled her life, but will the people who’ve entered her world change her heart?
In Broken Places is a touching, emotional read that opens your heart and understanding to those who live their lives in fear. I loved this book. Its narration is personable and the characters are real and memorable. Recommended for anyone who has a heart and loves redemptive stories.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a Review Copy free from the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The options I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Review 6 for In Broken Places - eBook
Strong in the broken places
Date:June 24, 2013
At the beginning of the book, the author quotes Ernest Hemingway about being "strong in the broken places" and that was a perfect summary of this story. This is about Shelby Davis' journey as a woman suffering from the lingering effects of her father's abuse. Even though her father left the family while she was a teenager, he continues to inform her life and her decisions. Ironically, it is through his act of placing a 4 year old in Shelby's care that starts her on the road to healing. There are flashbacks of the abuse inflicted on Shelby and her brother, Trey (as well as their coping skills to survive) interspersed with Shelby's present situations. I thought the author did such a realistic job of portraying, not only the abuse, but how children react---anger, ambivalence (hate/love the abuser), low self-esteem, fear, and guilt. The author really has a way with words, creating imagery that illuminates what's on the page. I was surprised at Shelby's wit---at times sarcastic, self-deprecating but funny--she banters well with her brother and her romantic interest, Scott (except for the occasional Scarlett O'Hara imitations). On a religious note, the author does include the topic of why God allows suffering, using C.S. Lewis (Shelby is directing a school play about C.S. Lewis and his love) but I think I would have liked to see how God was woven into Shelby's daily life. That's just my opinion and it didn't deter from this book. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone.
I have quickly become a huge fan of Michele Phoenix! "In Broken Places" is one of the best works of fiction I've read in a while; a story that grips you in the first chapter and doesn't let you go until the last page, and even then you're so emotionally invested in the characters that you don't want to say goodbye.
"In Broken Places" is written almost like a diary, a first-person narrative by the main character Shelby Davis, who intersperses her present day story with flashbacks to a dramatic life changing time period 6 months prior and then also to her childhood. The reader quickly discovers that Shelby is a broken, although still successful and functioning, woman who bears deep scars from an abusive childhood. These scars continue to cripple and hinder her as an adult, and the way she was raised prompts a panic attack when she suddenly becomes a mother to an orphaned relation. However she, and the reader also, starts to understand how the thing she fears most is what God must use to bring her complete healing in Him.
This book is a very emotional read, from the absolutely gut-wrenching and tear-inducing flashbacks of Shelby's childhood, to the relatable feelings of anger, guilt and overwhelmingness. However, there are also moments of great humor and smile-inducing dialogue.
They say "write what you know" and Michele Phoenix has done it yet again, as she brings great knowledge from her own life, whether in her descriptions of Germany and the school she actually taught at for years, or sadly, in her own personal understanding of abuse. Nevertheless, its quite evident that God has brought Michele through her own experiences and then granted her an incredible gift of storytelling so that she's able to bless others through her writing.
So, I have to say, I was moved not just by the story of "In Broken Places" itself, but in the greater story of Michele Phoenix; to God be the glory!
I thought this was going to be a hard book to get “into”. It began with lots of phrases like “cotton-candy clouds” and “staccato consonants” and “shrilling vowels” that seemed to fill the first few chapters. I found myself saying “get on with the story already.” And just about that time, Michele Phoenix did just that. She weaves this beautiful story of brokenness and healing that came from the most unlikely and most hurtful places. Any reader will grow to love Shelby and marvel at Shayla. Once I got into it the story, it only took me two days to finish the book. This story is one of hope and trust and healing, not only finding the good in others, but in ourselves. Michele Phoenix tells a story we can all relate to...one that doesn’t offer a happy ever after, but hope in our brokenness.
"In Broken Places" by Michele Phoenix is a beautifully written novel dealing with the effects of an abusive father on his two children, Trey and Shelby, now in their 30's. Occasional flashbacks enable the reader to comprehend just how abusive the father really was. Shelby has taken a job as an English teacher in an American school in Germany. However, before flying to Germany she learns her abusive father has just died, leaving her his money, a condo and guardianship of his four year old daughter Shayla by a woman who didn't want a child. Although adjusting to a new culture, new friends, new job, and a four year old wasn't easy, Shelby made some good friends, loved Shalya and was loved by her, found her students enthusiastic about putting on a play by C. S. Lewis, and learned through her friendship with the school's coach that God can fix even broken lives.
It took me a little while to get into the story but when I did it proved to be a beautiful love story between Shelby and her half sister Shayla. The half sister she didn't even know she had until after her father passed away and put in his will that he wanted Shelby to raise Shayla. The story switches back and forth between Shelby's past with her brother Trey while they endure their father's violence and the present when Shelby moves to Germany with Shayla to get a fresh start.
I thoroughly enjoyed In Broken Places and found myself continually turning the pages to find out what would happen next. In the beginning of the story we meet a precious 4 year old, Shayla, who is Shelby's new daughter - but the author pulls you into the story by not letting you know how she came into Shelby's life. But ultimately this is a wonderful, healing story of a child abuse survivor with most of the story set in Germany.
Shelby and her brother Trey survived an abusive childhood, and now Shelby is the guardian of a 4 year old daughter. She moves to Germany for a fresh start and her past continues to haunt her. New relationships make her remember her past and deal with the hurt.
I thought the story was good. It alternated between the present and the past, showing what happened to Shelby in childhood and how she dealt with it as an adult. The German setting was interesting as well.
This story is beautifully written. The very emotional flashbacks skillfully draw you in, to care about Shelby and her brother, Trey, and root for their healing. I am very impressed with the quality of the writing, and the sensitive way the subject of abuse is handled. The author is effective at building the story and inspiring understanding of the characters. I am infatuated with Scott! I’d like to see his “expressive brown eyes” and hear his sensitive love speeches, she wrote him so well. The little girl is so endearing! She reminds me of all the precious four-year-olds I have known. The author managed a happy ending, even for such a difficult subject. This book is well worth reading.
Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. The author did an excellent job writing about the effects that survivors of domestic violence face, especially at the hands of their parents. The story is about a woman named Shelby, who inherited her 4 year old half-sister. In the beginning of the book, Shelby is barely functioning because of the pain of her childhood and the only person that seems to keep her sane is her older brother. Together, the siblings survived a violent childhood, but they still bear the scars from that childhood. However, when 4 year old Shayla enters Shelby's life, she discovers a strength and love that she did not know she had. The two leave their home and go to live in Germany, where Shelby works as a teacher at a missionary kids' school. While there, Shelby discovers lessons about God, love, and faith from some characters that readers will find endearing. This was a great book and I really enjoyed reading it.
Shelby is a single woman in her mid-thirties from a broken home with an abusive father who has finally created a stable, if far from perfect, life for herself. Then one day, she receives news that she has been named the sole guardian of four-year-old Shayla. For a working woman with no intentions of marriage or children, the sudden responsibility is staggering. When coupled with a move to a new job in Germany, the drama required to drive this plot abounds. However, supporting it is one of the better unlikely love stories I've read in a while–the one between an unlikely mother and daughter, each lost, and each struggling to find a home.
This was a funny, down to earth, full of the great moments that come with child-rearing and tinged with some of the bittersweet, and even painful, moments of when childhood goes wrong. Shelby's desire to prevent her own history repeating in Shayla's life is a common factor of every parent who decides they will be different from their own parents. And the discovery that even when things go completely wrong there is forgiveness between parents and children is the life of every Christian.
Highly recommended. Especially for fans of parenting memoirs.
The story centers on Shelby, a modern-day, 30-something single American, trying to adjust to her new role as a "pseudo-mother" (a label of her own invention) to a little girl named Shayla. Shelby "inherits" Shayla after the girl's father, a man Shelby cannot forgive, passes away. Hoping a new job in a new country will provide a fresh start, Shelby accepts a teaching position at a school in Germany. Moving across the globe does not allow Shelby to escape the scars from her past, however; it forces her to face them.
'IBP' is written in the witty, sarcastic voice of Shelby. Dialogue drives the narrative, making it fast-paced and hard to put down. The characters are lovable and believable.
Much of this novel seems to be taken from Phoenix's own life. The abuse, for example, is referenced in her concluding remarks. The location is exactly where she taught for two decades (see her personal blog for photos and background details).
Overall, a good read for anyone - especially readers who also have broken places and need a reminder that it is in those places that we are made strong.
Shelby’s life isn’t glamorous, but it is predictable—and that’s the way she likes it. A survivor of her father’s violence, she has spent a lifetime creating a safe existence devoid of dependence. But her carefully managed world begins to break when, under staggering circumstances, she becomes a single mother to four-year-old Shayla. In a drastic attempt to escape her childhood’s influence, Shelby moves to Germany, but she quickly discovers how intimately linked memory and healing are—and how honestly she must scrutinize her past in order to aspire to a richer future. As she juggles a new job, a new culture, a new daughter, and the attention of an enterprising man, Shelby’s fresh start becomes a quest for the courage to be not only a survivor, but someone who prevails.
I really wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the character development and thought the plot was a good one. I found it difficult to read because the story kept jumping in time from present day to a few months earlier to flashbacks from Shelby's own childhood. I just found it disjointed and a bit difficult to stay with.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In Broken Places is the first book I've read by Michele Phoenix. As I write this review, I cannot remember what about the summary drew me into choosing it, unless it was the words "she becomes a single mother of four-year-old Shayla. Having been a single mother, but through different circumstances, perhaps my empathy for single mothers everywhere called my name.
This book recently travelled with me via Amtrak across the country, and it made for a good read among other passengers, in busy dining and lounge cars, and when there was lots of starting and stopping. And that is thanks to the seamless writing used by its author.
At once, Phoenix drew me to a caring state of mind and heart for her characters. Shelby and her brother, Trey, had survived years of abuse at the hands of a father who then suddenly left the family. Together, they had shared a bond unbreakable. They thought he was out of their lives forever.
But an unimaginable surprise waited for Shelby when their father dies. Under his will, he leaves her something she doesn't know how to cope with, or for that matter know what to do with. This bequest ultimately changes her life and that of other people.
Her decision about this bequest takes her to Germany, a new teaching position, a handsome coach who wants nothing more than to get to know her better, and new-found friends who give her the support she needs. A story which restores hope and joy.
Here you must trust me: If you're looking for a poignant, fast-moving summer read, In Broken Places is for you. Michele Phoenix knows how to keep her readers engaged and moving toward that last page.
First, I love the cover. You just know that little girl has to be adorable.
I so enjoyed Michéle Phoenix's writing voice. Within the first page I knew I would like this author simply by her writing style. She has a way with her words that is a style I could never write and a way only she could.
This is the type of book I like to read. The main character, Shelby, has some brokenness from her past that she comes face-to-face with and she can't run away and ignore it, she must deal with it. My heart breaks for her as I read about the abuse she suffered as a child, probably because a lot of the verbal abuse hit way too close to home for me. I remember the tension, the waiting to see if you would say something wrong that would set off a torrent of verbal bashing.
There is also a dash of romance, which I always enjoy as well.
The book is written differently. You start off in the present and then you go back about seven months when Shelby gets the child, Shayla. Then at times you go even further back into Shelby's childhood. Although this breaks every rule new writers are told never to do, it totally works with this book and Michéle weaves it together beautifully.
If you like a deeper read that deals with the brokenness in the human spirit and the futile ways we try to protect ourselves, you will want to read this book.
A copy of this book was given to me by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.