Author: Madeleine Van Hecke
Overview from Goodreads:
Feisty, Irish-Catholic Colleen Moretti thrust the letter into the back of a drawer. Her plan: ignore the fault line until the tremors pass. But her husband’s betrayal is far worse than Colleen suspects.
In this complex story of a family unraveling, both Colleen and her college-age daughter Rachel struggle to maintain their balance amidst feelings of love and loss, anger and betrayal. A gifted cellist, Rachel escapes into her music and her campus life, including her burgeoning romance with her first real boyfriend. But her coming of age tale is fraught with complications from what’s happening in her family. In her desperation to sustain hope, Colleen turns a blind eye to Rachel’s struggles. Instead, she clutches to her faith that preaches forgiveness and to the tender memories that preserve her image of the man she has known her husband to be. Mixed in this soup is eight-year-old Izzy, whom both Colleen and Rachel try to protect from the fallout of this conflict.
With two daughters caught in the middle of a crumbling marriage, one who would love to see her father cut out of their lives and the other who would be crushed to lose him, Colleen is trapped in a no-win situation. Colleen finally realizes she can’t save her daughters, her marriage, and herself, so… who will she choose?
“Once You Know “is a novel that balances between the stories of a mom, Colleen, and her daughter, Rachel, as they navigate Rachel suddenly coming to terms with repressed memories of being sexually abused when she was eight years old. This type of topic is one that’s commonly written about, so it was refreshing to have an author talk about the topic so openly. It’s not my usual genre, but I’m glad that I expanded my reading library. It is an intense novel though so I can understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
We start the novel with Colleen and her husband Derek as they find out that they will need to move back to Chicago for Derek’s job after just moving to Arizona less than a year ago. This means Colleen now has to a lot of work to get the home ready and prepare to move her family, which includes their eight-year old daughter Izzy. This initial part of the story, before any of the main traumas is revealed, really started my dislike of Colleen. It constantly felt that taking care of Izzy was a burden on her and she kept saying how stressed out she is yet she didn’t do much aside from taking care of her daughter; it’s even mentioned how the house wasn’t fixed up, so aside from day-to-day care, I’m not sure what Colleen was doing with all her time and what exactly was stressing her out.
Rachel is in college and is an active participate in her women and violence class. She has her best friend Mandy, who she moves in with, and Aaron, her boyfriend. I appreciated these two characters as they were very supportive of Rachel, especially once she remembers what happened to her all those years ago. These memories come back to Rachel after visiting her aunt’s house (I won’t reveal the details as it does spoil part of the story). As she comes to terms with these incidents, she now has to work to move forward with healing.
I appreciate the author’s research that was used as the writing details the healing process and can serve as a great educational material to those that don’t know as much about a form of PTSD that we don’t typically think about. Not only does Rachel work on rebuilding herself, but she also has to deal with the fear that this could happen to her sister, Izzy. After all, she was sexually abused when she was the same age.
Rachel is a well-written character and I love that she’s relatable as her healing process isn’t linear; it’s a roller coaster with many ups and downs. While working on moving forward in healing, you not only take many steps forward, but also many steps back (and sometimes many tangents that you didn’t see coming and it muddles your healing process.) It was nice to follow Rachel on this journey and root for her to succeed in trying to find a way to rebuild. There were many times while reading that I wished this story solely focused on her and her process.
Unfortunately, there is nothing nice I can say about the Colleen character as I did not like her from beginning to end. I know I’m in the minority when it comes to liking her at the end, but I just didn’t see her fully adopting a changed outlook (she never fully came to understand reason and instead held on to religion as the only source of healing). I think that was main issue with her as religion can be a great source of healing and hope, but it’s not the only path. To me, I think she should have attended counseling as well (either alone or with her daughter) to actually delve into the traumas that Rachel dealt with. Counseling is not only for the victim, but can be an excellent resource to those around them to gain coping tools. (Of course, I’m not an expert in any way, but it’s just my thought and knowledge from those I’ve known in a similar situation.)
Overall, I encourage any reader to read this novel even if it’s not their “type” of story. It’s a great insight into a topic that’s commonly overlooked and could be happening to those in our lives (we see those around Rachel not have a clue even though their close and they only know after she tells them.) The writing was great as it’s easy to follow the storyline and I liked that there isn’t a full stop ending where everything is fully wrapped up in the end (bits and pieces are, but there’s still room for some speculation of the future). It was a good way to end it as it fits the theme of this book that there is no end to overcoming trauma and it can sometimes be a never-ending process.
**Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for the chance to read this ARC. Opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.**