3 out of 4 stars
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Saying Sorry Won’t Stop the Pain is a fictionalized memoir by Artie Woodington. Beginning in Texas in the 1940s, it tells the story of Chock (the name derives from ‘Chocolate fox’, a nickname given to her by her father) as she moves through childhood to adulthood. Her story is told in three parts. The first part tells the story of Chock’s early years. The second part details Chock’s life after the family is forced to leave Texas in about 1951 when Chock is ten. The third part of the book deals with Chock’s life after she marries at the age of just sixteen.
The story is dominated by dark themes. Through Chock, we experience violence, racism, sexism, abuse, and bullying. For her, it starts at home and at school. These were times when adults disciplined children with various forms of corporal punishment. Chock and her siblings get their fair share of this. Outside home and school, the threat of beatings, sexual assault, and even violent death are an ever-present reality. It is, in fact, a combination of these factors which sees the family having to move away from Texas. Removed from their own community and living an almost transient existence, the risks become even greater. It is at this point in her life that Chock is the victim of sexual abuse. The most powerful passages in the book, however, come in part three when Chock describes the treatment she receives at the hands of her husband. It is not so much the violence itself that is shocking, but rather the connivance of those around Chock – family, friends, police – to what is going on.
It would be understating the case simply to note that the book has not been professionally edited. It contains many, many grammatical and typographical errors. More significantly, perhaps, the writing frequently slips from a third-person narrative seen through Chock’s eyes, to the first-person, as the author almost inadvertently identifies herself as Chock. So, for example, we read on page 18: ‘Chock tried to be like my sisters whenever it suited her purpose.’ This happens regularly, and it happens with all the personal pronouns.
Having read those last two paragraphs, you could be forgiven for dismissing this book as another tale of misery, badly told. Surprisingly, that is not nearly the full picture. Despite the unpromising themes, despite its many flaws, I found this book to be engrossing. Chock’s story is a powerful one and the author tells it in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages. Her writing style is conversational. Above all, it is authentic. Whether she is describing a storm, a house, or a person, the author’s words make the situation come alive for the reader.
I give the book three out of four stars. I should probably give it only two, given the amount of editing it requires, but I enjoyed it far too much to give it less than three. I recommend it to those who like fictionalized memoirs or historical fiction. The themes are adult in nature and there is also some strong language, so the book is suitable only for mature readers not easily offended.
Saying Sorry Won't Stop the Pain
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