3 out of 4 stars
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Clearer Vision is a sober and often heartbreaking collection of four short stories centering around abused women. Rape, other forms of physical abuse, child grooming, and stalking are all explored within this collection. “Betrayed” follows the story of Terri, a lesbian whose so-called “friend” has set her up on a date with a man in hopes of making her straight. The next short story is called “Frenemy” and is about a woman who falls in love with a singer at her church when he stares at her during his songs. “The Alliance” is about two women, Asia and Tara, who are pregnant with the same man’s child. Finally, “Nobody’s Favorite” is about a pregnant child and the abuse that led to her pregnancy.
I admire Traci Chevell Adkins and her willingness to tackle such dark subjects in her writing. This is a powerful collection, and one that I can’t imagine was at all easy to write. Her dedication to bringing the stories of women who have faced abuse out of the shadows is truly inspiring. My favorite part of this book is the theme of women coming together in the face of abuse. This theme is especially clear in “The Alliance,” as Tara, whose husband has been cheating on her with Asia, realizes that Asia is not the enemy. She instead becomes a source of comfort and support for Asia, who has few others to reach out to. These stories serve as an important reminder that connecting with fellow survivors can be a crucial part of healing for those who have faced abuse.
As much as I love this collection, I do think there is some room for growth. One issue I had in the first three stories was that the narrators felt a bit one-dimensional. I couldn’t fully connect to them because I didn’t know who they were outside of the plot. I got some glimpses into their personalities and motivations, but I would like to see more dimensionality given to these characters. For example, what do they like and dislike? What makes them happy? All of these women are very strong in the face of abuse, so who or where did they learn that from? Even though these are short stories, I think there is room to explore these characters further and give them complexities and personalities that will bring them to life even more. As the book is currently written, the first three narrators are so similar that it was difficult for me to distinguish between them.
Another issue I had was that I felt like Adkins wasn’t allowing herself enough space to tell some of these stories. I felt this way especially in “Frenemy.” The narrator goes on an interesting journey of self-love and setting boundaries with toxic people at her church, but these years of work are summed up in two somewhat vague pages. She says that she learns “that every day requires a conscious choice to be the best version of myself possible,” which is an incredible quote, but the process she took to get there is not described. This seems to be a crucial part of her story, and I was disappointed that it was not explored in more depth. Perhaps the book would benefit from sticking to a shorter time frame within these stories instead of trying to describe years worth of knowledge and experience in these few pages.
Although there is room for improvement, the issues I mentioned did not heavily detract from my enjoyment of the stories. Because of this, I am giving Clearer Vision by Traci Chevell Adkins 3 out of 4 stars. I noticed very few errors within the book, and each short story was powerful and beautifully written. Abuse is a difficult topic to write about, but Adkins does so movingly, focusing on the strength of survivors at the same time as she brings light to the trauma they have faced. I was even moved to tears at points, especially while reading “Nobody’s Favorite,” by the terrible things done to these women and the hope they found in their dark situations.
I would recommend Clearer Vision to anyone who wants insight into the stories of women who have been abused. The entire collection is around 80 pages, so it is a very short read. The abuse is not depicted graphically, but I would recommend those who might be triggered by mentions of rape, violent homophobia, stalking, childhood sexual abuse and grooming, and other forms of abuse to avoid this book. Overall, this was a difficult but compelling and honest read, and I am excited to read future works by Adkins.
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