Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Acts of Contrition - Review

Review by Deb Czajkowski

For the past ten years, Mary Morrissey has been living a lie.  If she were truly honest with herself, the previous ten years had been a lie as well. To be fair, over the course of the first decade she was only lying to herself. For the second decade, she has been lying to her husband.  Lying by omission, lying because she is afraid her secret will destroy her perfect life, shattering the life of her dreams.

Mary was nineteen when she first met the charismatic Landon James, a young attorney with great political aspirations and an admitted personal commitment phobia. Still, he quickly became Mary’s addiction, rendering her incapable of resisting his charms and the intermittent presence in her life, holding Mary hostage for ten years−and beyond.

Then, when Mary was twenty-nine, she met Tom who, after only three months of dating, asked Mary to marry him. And so began the life of her dreams: a loving husband who is committed to her, followed by the births of two daughters and twin sons. Finally, a happily-ever-after for Mary? Not exactly.

Mary has a secret, one that has tormented her for the past ten years, one huge enough to blow her happy world apart. During each of Landon James’ political campaigns, Mary has held her breath, waiting, watching, wondering.  Just as Mary finally thinks she’s home free, that her secret will remain hidden, the damning truth is suddenly brought to light. And the fall-out is every bit as devastating as Mary feared.

To err may be human and to forgive may be divine, but does that apply to a ten year cover-up of betrayal and heart-break?  Is forgiveness possible when the hurt is so personal, so deep?  Will this far-reaching revelation destroy forever Mary’s family, her dream? Can addiction be conquered or will that hold remain eternally to taunt and tempt?

Are you obsessed with washing your hands? (Maybe a little.) Are your cupboards stocked with a six-month supply of food? (I’ll admit to three months.) Do you frequently have to feed your need to read? (Definitely!)  Addictions? Maybe. But generally speaking, most people would probably consider such behaviors to be pretty harmless.

Serious addiction is certainly front and center in author Jennifer Handford’s book, Acts of Contrition, primarily the extensive effects of Mary’s addiction to Landon.  Alcoholism, the Morrissey curse, is also given weight. Unless you have personally seen the costs of addiction, it’s often hard to comprehend its reality. In Acts of Contrition, Jennifer Handford honestly and convincingly illustrates that fierce and sometimes brutal pull.  But she also beautifully couches her story with abiding faith, family love and loyalty, and unfathomable forgiveness.

While Acts of Contrition is not a light-hearted story, actually painful at times in its realism and rawness, I highly recommend this incredibly well written book.  If you cannot relate to Jennifer Handford’s characters and their issues, then you can count your blessings.  And that alone is worth this read.

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About the Author:
Jennifer Handford is the author of Daughters for a Time, an acclaimed novel that has sold more than 100,000 copies. People Magazine hailed it, "A wrenching, resonant debut about infertility, cancer and adoption. Grab your hankies." In 2010, Jennifer was one of three first-place finalists in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Jennifer is currently teaching writing at American University. Her second novel, Acts of Contrition, was published in April 2014.

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