The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Maybe is the word spoken before we make a wish. Like, "I wish..." I wish this never happened. I wish I had stopped it somehow. I wish it had gone differently. I wish I could go back to before. I wish. I wish. I wish.
Eden was probably the kind of girl who might lay in the grass the summer before starting her four years of high school, pulling dandelion puffballs and blowing their seeds into all the wishes she could make for her life, back when it was much simpler to wish, simpler to breathe, simpler to just be.
Back when she was Edy, and before her life went spiraling out of control. A stairwell to a dark cellar where awful things happen, and claw their way back up the stairs from beneath her skin, trying to find a way out.
THE WAY I USED TO BE is raw, unflinchingly truthful, and astonishing in its portrayal of what millions of women, girls, boys, and men, and those who do not align as either, or who remain fluid, suffer through daily.
Sadly, they carry the guilt, the shame, and the fear which belongs to their abuser, as if it belongs to them, as if it is their own. And yet, it's not. It's a horrific lie told to them to keep them a prisoner, stuck on the stairs leading down into the cellar of their minds.
As Eden struggles through all four years of high school, drifting farther and farther away from the girl who used to say maybe, take a breath, and blow her wishes across the lawn or field she laid in, she wonders if she will ever find a way back to that place where she could still choose what her life might be, instead of having it already decided for her, already a nightmare she has to endure as a consequence of his actions. But I could just as easily say her actions, or their actions, depending upon whose story is being told.
As a male, I believe this book should be required reading in every sex ed class that separates out the boys and the girls, telling them how they will become adults. This book makes it crystal clear the devastation, the aftermath, the horror of what it is like for a survivor of rape to struggle through until she finds her voice and a way to speak the truth that has been shoved down so far, she doesn't even recognize herself in the mirror anymore.
Many thanks to Amber Smith, for writing what must have been such a terrible thing to have to write and live inside of for so long, until it was perfect and ready for its readers. No one wants to read about this. But we must. No one wants to talk about this, either. But WE MUST.
There were so many exquisite moments of profound truth and honesty, words of poetry so powerfully concentrated and blasting off the page as I read the lines. This is a book that needs to be processed, pondered, discussed, and shared. I intend to do all of those things, and more.
Thank you so much for writing this book, Amber. It is an honor to know you. Please, write more books chock full of truth and boiled down to the words within these pages. Amazing. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Powerhouse of a book. An absolute MUST READ. A book you won't regret, despite the topic.
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