It’s a story of triumph, empowerment and growth.
Anna is married to an abusive husband and finally decides to file for divorce. This is when our protagonist begins the heroine’s journey.
To understand how vastly different her early years were from her adult married life, we are given several chapters that take place during her idyllic childhood. Ordinarily a trip down memory lane is fun for authors to write, but diverges away from the plot. Not so here. Knowing what Anna’s formative years were like puts her adult situation in high contrast. The experiences of her youth also explain how an intelligent, wise, loving woman can find herself in an unimaginable situation. Living with an abuser was unimaginable. When Anna’s parents (the Dennisons) witness their son-in-law verbally mistreat their daughter, the father says, “It’s our fault…We raised her to trust everyone.”
In the tradition of sensitive dramas, the physical and sexual abuse occur off stage. This works because Bender’s story-telling conveys volumes by what she chooses to omit, thereby engaging readers to participate actively in filling in the blanks.
When the pieces of Anna’s new life have come together, she learns she was not the only victim in the family. “Despite the warnings from the girls’ counselors, Anna remained naïve. She’d read Grace and Charlene’s joy at coming home as the end of their ordeal. Instead, it was the beginning of their own strategies for survival.” Then Anna learns that her son, as well as her two daughters, has a secret.
“Rising Up” is the work of a writer who knows the craft. Each character has a unique voice. (Writing instructors say readers should be able to figure out who spoke without relying on speech tags.) Many transitions, although sudden, are economical and smooth.
Because the book is self published, I lowered my expectations. And, yes, there are a few minor flubs, such as a reversed quotation mark. Also, one can’t judge this book by the images and verbiage on the covers.
I cherished each time I opened the book and continued reading about Anna and her heroine’s journey. I rationed out the last few pages. This is what readers do when they don’t want to finish a book populated with characters who seem very real and likeable. Readers who feel a sense of loss at having to say goodbye to a poignant experience upon finishing “Rising Up” will be glad to know that the Dennison family is also featured in “Until There Was Us” and “Worlds Apart.”
Review by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved, coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”
When teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War
“Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.