Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written two. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of My Prison Without Bars, a psychological horror story of abuse, resilience and ultimately, redemption, based on true events, by Taylor Evan Fulks.
Characters: The narrator of this first-person story has the same first name as the author, underlining, for me, anyway, that at least some of the events have a basis in the author’s personal experience. The characters include Taylor as a baby, a girl, a teen and an adult.
Along the way, she encounters and describes varying degrees of awfulness from family members, acquaintances, strangers and friends. Here’s how Taylor describes herself as college student in the 1980s:
I won’t say I was a raging beauty, at least not fashion-model beautiful, but I didn’t feel the need to hide out until dark, lingering in the shadows, fearing exposure. More like the girl next door— pretty. I had a lean body, good skin, and great hair. Being the early 1980s, I had dark auburn hair halfway down my back as thick and straight as a horse’s tail, perfectly feathered on the sides, then curled and lacquered with hairspray. Gale-force winds couldn’t disrupt my coiffure. At least I had thought so when I started out of the dorm that morning. I had Hispanic genes, so I was able to tan to a toasty brown, with a smattering of freckles here and there. Angel kisses, my mom always said. I had a thin oval face, high cheekbones, and— my best feature— eyes of aqua green. Boobs? I had two. A long waist and athletic legs— thunder thighs, if you asked me—finished off the package.
The personable description with a touch of humor — “Boobs? I had two” — tells as much about Taylor (the character) as the description itself.
Plot: The memoir-style narrative has no plot as such, other than can Taylor, a likeable protagonist, escape what seems to be an endless vicious cycle of abuse. Most of it, such as the sexual abuse she suffered as a little girl at the hands of her step-father, seemed to result from forces beyond her control. Later as an adult, there were times when I almost shouted aloud, “Walk away, Taylor! Don’t give the SOB the benefit of the doubt!”
Finding the strength to do that — the “key” to the prison — is what Taylor’s story is about.
Setting: My Prison Without Bars is set mostly in rural Oklahoma, with episodes that take place in Texas, Ohio, West Virginia and even Daytona Beach, during a harrowing spring break episode. Author Taylor has a talent for description of place, as well as person; here’s her quick look at a small Oklahoma town where her mother gets a teaching job:
However, most of the homes had been neglected, left unkempt. The yards were neither mowed nor groomed. Junk and abandoned cars littered the yards. Torn and tattered curtains, bordered the windows from the inside, while chipped and dangling shutters swayed in the wind.
What I thought could’ve been done better: A few minor typos are about the only thing that gave me pause as I read, other than the egregious behavior of most of the characters. For instance, a minor character, an attorney, is introduced as “Herald Spearman,” but later referred to as “Harold.” I think I marked four such errors throughout the course of the book, but nothing that derailed the reading experience. The only other thing I might’ve suggested is that Taylor use another name for her protagonist. Using a name similar to her own muddies the waters, in my opinion.
What I thought was good: Taylor writes in a conversational, matter-of-fact voice that gives great credibility to the terrible ordeals her main character encounters. As I’ve mentioned, she does well with description, using vivid verbs, similies and other figures of speech to give life and vibrancy to the narrative. Here, Taylor’s (the character) husband has just learned of his father’s death:
The night sky was cold, clear and moonless, stretching like an endless maze of twinkle lights above the monotonous highway as we headed south from Columbus. After the phone call from Stan, I found Tony huddled in the corner of our shower, cold water beating down on him. He moved like an automaton as I got him out of the shower, void of animation. I dried him, dressed him, packed for him, and led him to our car. He did not speak. He barely blinked. I drove, and he stared in a dry-eyed stupor at the black horizon rushing by his window.
When Taylor (the author) uses these techniques to describe the episodes of abuse, her scenes have a terrible, heartbreaking intensity. I couldn’t help but think, as I read them, and as I write this review, that someone is probably going through such experiences even now. I’m betting that kind of awareness is something the author wants to engender in readers — correct me if I’m wrong, Taylor — and she did.
There are several scenes where the grown-up (character) Taylor has to deal with murderous attacks. Author Taylor handles these with a gritty, verbal realism that any writer of action-adventure could be proud of — but in these cases, I hoped against hope that these were indeed part of the fictionalization.
Overall: My Prison Without Bars is both easy and hard to read. It’s easy because of the author’s writing skills and confiding, conversational tone. It’s hard because of the subject matter. And while not every one of Taylor’s (the character) relationships were physically, sexually or emotionally abusive, some of them were cruel just by their absenteeism when she struggled. Her story made me look at myself. Have I truly been there for those I care about when they needed me? I hope so, of course. Having read Taylor’s story and seen the difference some kindness and effort might’ve made in the right circumstances, I’m paying closer attention.
Harrowing, heartbreaking, personal, but ultimately triumphant, this is the story of a fighter.
Good job Taylor (author and character)!
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And for sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thrillers, check out my own novel American Goddesses on Amazon or Smashwords, and the newly published sequel Rogue Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!
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