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Behind Closed Doors    by Susan Sloan order for
Behind Closed Doors
by Susan Sloan
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Behind Closed Doors is the story of an abused woman accused of the murder of her husband of over forty years. What pulls the reader through the decades of their lives together is the question of whether, why, and how, the worm finally turned (though worm is a poor noun to apply to this sweet, vulnerable woman).

Valerie O'Connor, youngest in a large, loving Catholic family, falls for charming, handsome Jack Marsh, and marries him despite her father's reservations. Jack comes from a very different background than Valerie, with a father who abused him after his birth caused his mother's death. Jack has never been able to talk about this but fears above all losing his new wife. He is an extremely selfish lover, but Valerie knows nothing else and assumes that she's the one at fault. As children begin to arrive too rapidly for Jack's liking, and his career hopes falter, he lashes out at his loyal wife, who blames herself. Gradually through the years, Jack's abuse escalates and spills over onto the children. Then tragedy strikes, one which injures Valerie more than the worst of Jack's blows. Only friendship pulls her through a black hole of depression and guilt into a new life, and the care of a grandchild. But eventually her life falters once more and the blow is struck that puts Valerie on trial.

Having read and enjoyed the author's Act of God, I was disappointed in Behind Closed Doors, expecting more surprises than psychology. However, the latter is addressed very well, in that the author makes her characters and plot plausible. In particular, Susan Sloan is able to make the reader understand how a woman like Valerie O'Connor might tolerate the intolerable (including damage to her children) for so long.

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