I wrote then that “the story is disturbing. I had to put it down now and then. I didn’t wanted to read on and yet the fluid writing style made me continue. The writing style keeps you engaged. The pace moves you seamlessly from one tragedy into the next.” I have to repeat myself.
This sequel deals with the author’s life after the age of fifteen. We follow her growing up and succeeding in many areas such as her career. However, we also see that she never got over the abuse.
From the cover: “Shannon O’Leary (a pseudonym) is a prolific writer and performer. Her first book, The Blood on My Hands, told the story of her traumatic and violent childhood in the 1960s and ’70s Australia.
This sequel, Out of the Fire and into the Pan, explains to the reader how she progressed into the adult world while coming to terms with her terrifying past. It is a story of personal growth and of how O’Leary navigates her transition into adulthood, while seeking out the social norms and finding her place in the world.”
According to the previous book “O’Leary has acted and directed on the stage and on Australian national TV, and she runs her own production company and music schools. She has numerous graduate and post-graduate degrees in education, music, and science.
Shannon is a teacher and academic, had five children with her deceased former husband, and lives with her longtime partner in the Central Western Plains in Australia.”
The book tells us what happened in several years of O’Leary’s life. The red thread throughout the story remains the father who not just stalked his family, but terrorized them too. O’Leary describes how scared her grandmother was when items started to shift in the house, when voices spoke to her in the evening, and that she heard steps late at night when she was alone in bed. Turned out that O’Leary’s father had found a way to sneak into Grandma’s house and tormented this old woman. According to O’Leary, this man raped her mother, her brother, herself, killed people and pets, and controlled every aspect of her life. He was never charged, never faced trial, and is now deceased.
But it isn’t just the father who makes this book difficult to read. O’Leary herself made friends with people who use and abuse such as Holly. And the author makes accusations for example that her father is poisoning his new wife Rachel, who doesn’t look healthy.
One of the things that O’Leary describes is that she was always afraid to be taken away from her mother. At the age of five, she had one friend in school, Rosie. After a few days, Rosie had left the school. Upon asking, Rosie was taken into government care as her father was arrested for sexual abuse. Rosie had told people what was happening to her. At age five, what the author understood was this: if I tell anyone what my father does to me I get taken away from my mother too. And this fear, combined with many other psychological aspects, remained a constant in her life.
As the book is very hard to read, you start to crave some tangible aspects such as court reports, newspaper clippings, etc. to verify that this horrible life is actually true and not a figment of someone’s imagination. So the search was on. With the clues from both books, I think that I know who the author is however, I cannot find anything about the abuse. I tell you honestly that I am not going to dig to find out more either. If this story is true, then the author has lived through hell and now deserves all the peace, privacy, and quietness that she can get.
At the end of the first book, Colin Mackenzie writes that all “my efforts to identify possible victims to support the author’s story have so far been fruitless.” However, he also points out that newspaper archives are not always complete, that how we report missing people has changed from the 60s, and that we have better ways now to track and protect people.
Even today, not every death has an obituary and not every obituary is archived online. Not every gravestone is in online databases either. Without a real name it will always remain a gamble how much a reader should invest in the story. If the story is fiction, I can see that happen. However, this is a memoir, an autobiography in which serious accusations are made. And that makes it harder for me to connect with the book.
A fantastic story, fiction, a mystery, an adventure, a thriller, they all carry that beautiful element in writing that is inspiration and imagination. However, I personally feel that everything true crime, autobiography, memoir, documentary, etc. needs to have a foundation that is traceable. I understand the need for privacy and the desire to help others in similar situations. O’Leary’s story can serve as an inspiration for others to not give up. However, it can just as easy be dismissed for a number of obvious reasons.
This book is not easy to read. I can imagine that some readers will not want to pick it up. Reading about physical, emotional, and psychological abuse is extremely difficult. I frequently had to tell myself not to judge the people in the book when yet another family member forgot to lock the front door or lost their keys. I felt like screaming finding out her mom placed a spare key under the flower pot.
Because of the abuse and realistic way the story unfolds, I find it extremely hard to say that I recommend reading the book. I also see why the anonymity of the author and thus lack of verification, can hinder some from picking up the book. So I leave it to you. Check it out online. There are reviews and purchase options on several places online.