Warner, August 2004, 25.95, 465 pp.
In 1955, while visiting her sister in Boston, Valerie O'Connor met and fell in love with Jack Marsh, the friend of her brother in law's brother. They saw each other every day until she returned home to her parents in Portland; Jack followed. Shortly there after he asked her parents for their permission to marry Valerie and although they had some doubts about the man's character, they gave their blessing.
Their wedding night was a disaster as Jack was only interested in satisfying his needs and as a result, Valerie had a lifelong revulsion to sex. She did her duty and was thrilled when she birthed five children before she was told she could not have anymore due to health reasons. As the years passed, Jack became increasingly abusive, hitting not only her but also their children. When they were of age, their kids left. One became a nun; another turned to prostitution; two went to jail; and the last a raged Jack threw off the roof when he was in an uncontrollable rage. The anger that Valerie tried to keep in check for years finally explodes and results in a tragedy that could cost her freedom.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS is a mesmerizing work of psychological suspense that examines in depth the impact of a violent drunken abuser and a woman who accepts what her husband dished out. The story line shows the co-dependency between the abuser and abused so that Valerie does not garner much sympathy especially when she is incapable of protecting their children. Susan R. Sloan has written a memorable book that is not pretty or nice but accurately represents one of society's worst social problems.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner