Lost Edens: A True Story
by Jamie Patterson
Publisher: Beaver’s Pond Press
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publicist for review purposes.
When her estranged husband asks to live with Jamie again she ignores her instincts and her family’s concerns and sets about making a perfect home for them in a California beach town. The delicate negotiation that follows is a carefully constructed reality between what Jamie is willing to acknowledge and what she is not.
The Amazon synopsis above doesn’t tell me much, so I had no idea what to expect from this memoir when I started reading it. I know it’s about a marriage on the rocks. Apparently her husband left, but now wants her back, so Jamie lets him back in despite misgivings from her family. With that intriguing premise, I began Lost Edens.
This memoir is about co-dependency and emotional abuse. It’s about a man who manipulates his wife into thinking everything is her fault. It’s about a woman who is so enraptured by the idea of a perfect marriage and family that she will do anything to please her husband, including giving up her own sense of self-worth. I was appalled by the actions of Jamie’s husband, Ben. I was flabbergasted by Jamie’s reactions to Ben’s obvious manipulations. I’m sure it is easy for myself, as the reader, to look into this situation and see how obvious the emotional abuse is. But, when you are in it, it is not so black and white. When you are in it, you just want to please your husband. You assume that what he says must be true, so you try to constantly be better, do better, revolve your life around him so maybe he will love you and want to stay with you. Unfortunately, I can easily see how a woman could get caught up in this type of relationship. It’s sad yet frightening.
I had some issues with the author’s writing. At times, it wasn’t clear. For example, I had to read this passage multiple times and I still didn’t understand it until a bit later in the chapter:
“I’m anxious to get moving, and I don’t really want my brother to know where I’ll be living. Either Ben can know where I live and no one else, or my family can know and Ben can’t. I am choosing Ben. I am choosing my husband.”
When I first read this, I thought Ben was her brother. From the end of the first sentence, “I don’t really want my brother to know where I’ll be living” and the beginning of the second sentence, “Either Ben can know…“, I assumed Ben is her brother’s name. And I was very confused – is her brother her husband? Shortly after, it became more clear that Ben is not her brother, but the wording of some passages like this gave me moments of confusion and interrupted the flow of the story. Other times, there would be a flashback in the middle of a scene and I wasn’t sure if I was reading something that was happening now or something that happened in the past. The transitions were unclear to me.
This is a fast-moving story that will make you shake your head in disbelief. You will be angry and saddened all at the same time. But I have no doubt that relationships like this are very common. It’s only through books like this that attention can be brought to the issue and people can begin to recognize the signs of an emotionally abusive situation. I commend the author for her bravery in telling her story.