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Rape, infidelity and the detonation of a marriage: Novelist Amanda Boyden’s tumultuous life has led to new memoir

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A: Second chances. I do feel as though I’ve been given many, and when I manage to muster any objectivity about them, I come away with only gratitude. Certainly it has sometimes felt like I survived a firing squad, maybe never more so than this last brutal shot from Joseph, but now, as my psychic sister reminds me, I am so much the better for being free — and to be fully and only myself. After Joseph had climbed up the writing ladder in Canada and France, he often found himself surrounded by fawning fans. If I happened to be there, he would introduce me, and occasionally a fan would say — I kid you not — ‘It must be wonderful to be Joseph’s wife. Do you ask him to read to you in bed at night?’ Joseph would have to explain, ‘My wife is a writer too.’ Well, now I have a second chance in life to carve out my own identity fully and solely, to get out from under the ungainly hat I’d been forced to wear as The Wife of the Famous Author. I relish it. I can see the sky fully without it for the first time in decades.

Q:In your late 20s you were violently raped and left for dead. The way you describe it is so visceral. Brutal as it was, the attack was a turning point for you. You realized you’d been given a second chance — you didn’t die. You were going to change your life and become a writer. Do you still see the attack that way now, as having catapulted your life forward?

A: I’m a Buddhist. A bit of a lapsed one at the moment, but I honestly look for the lessons in pain. I think, well, I survived this and this and this. Now what did I learn from it? The rape was horrific and life-altering. But damn if it didn’t function as a wake-up call for me. This violent, disgusting act propelled me forward with a speed I would never have found without it. Maybe just as importantly, though, is what I knew I wanted to say to other survivors of rape. I wanted to say, ‘I’m here, and I’m alive, and yes, you might carry this experience around with you all the rest of your days, but you too made it through.’ We’re stronger talking about what happened. Maybe each time people share their own rape experiences we get stronger as a whole. We get a tiny bit better as human beings.

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