For 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.
Day 16, Shattered by Debra Puglisi Sharp and Marjorie Preston
On a Sunday afternoon in April, a man high on drugs drove around looking for a woman. He saw one—a dark-haired woman planting roses in her yard. The man decided he wanted this woman, so he went around to the back door of her house and snuck in. The woman’s husband was inside, so the man shot him. When the woman came in, the man hit her on the head, raped her, put her in the trunk of his car, and drove her to his house. He kept her there, tied up and terrified, and assaulted her repeatedly for five days. When he left the house to go to work, he left the radio on to drown out her yells for help. It was from the radio that the woman found out her husband was dead.
Violent acts against women happen every day in America, most often to strangers, but sometimes to people we know. I did not know Debra Puglisi, though at the time of her abduction, her house was less than five miles from mine. I remember my shock when the local TV station ran a news ticker that she had been found—alive. For the five days she was missing, she was presumed dead by many, so the news seemed miraculous. The book she wrote to describe her ordeal reveals that it was not a miracle, but a determination to live and see her children again, that gave her the courage to fight out of the ropes on her wrists, find a phone, and call 911 to save herself. What may be miraculous is that she found the inner strength to write in graphic detail about what happened in those five days, but also about the turmoil and pain in the weeks, months, years to follow as she readjusted her life. Now, a large portion of it is devoted to other survivors.
Why is Shattered a good read for women? This is not fiction, so an easy happy ending is not possible, but a story about regaining peace and power after a life-altering event is of great value. This is a real, honest, and raw account of being assaulted and held against your will, but also about the humiliations and anger of recovering. It is, ultimately and more than anything, a survival story. Debra was reunited with her children. She resumed her work as a nurse. She remarried. She speaks to survivors. She helps law enforcement understand crime from the victim’s side. She testified against the man who murdered her husband and tore apart her life, and her book continues that testimony. I have many friends who write crime stories, fiction and nonfiction. There is no workshop, how-to book, or other writing aid that will give you a victim’s perspective like Debra Puglisi Sharp’s story can.