Review by Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis

Review on Ms. Miller's (Colleen Bruce) Book By Aphrodite Matsakis, Ph.D.  For centuries child abuse and other forms of family violence were shrouded in denial. Even in our own country, laws against animal cruelty existed before laws against child abuse. In the 1960’s the silence began to be broken and today the problem of child abuse is widely recognized. However, to date, the emphasis has been primarily on child sexual abuse and, after that, on physical abuse.  Yet the effects of other forms of abuse, such as emotional abuse and neglect, which are just as devastating to the human psyche, are often minimized, if not overlooked. Hence the importance of this book, written by a woman who experienced almost every form of child abuse, from abandonment and physical abuse, to extreme forms of emotional abuse. Indeed, the verbal degradation she endured assumed almost gigantic proportions because it occurred in the context of a multigenerational chain of family violence and addiction, as well as in the context of a small town. Hence her family’s problems became the object of vicious gossip and Ms. Bruce was subject to ridicule and bullying, not only at home, but at school, the supermarket and almost everywhere she went in her community. In this compelling account, Ms. Miller describes how she, a motherless child abandoned by her father, subsequently became subject to multiple forms of mistreatment, not only from her primary caretaker, but other relatives, some of whom were also abused as children or who suffered from an addiction or mental illness.  She touches on areas of child abuse, such as emotional manipulation and exposure to adult sexuality and sexual depravity, which need to be recognized.     Ms. Miller does not spare the reader some of the heartbreaking details of her experiences, yet there is not a shred of self-pity in her book. Instead she describes her abusers in their full human complexity, their good sides as well as their bad sides, often showing compassion and understanding as to why these people, like her unforgettable Nana and adulterous Aunt Charlotte, sought to cope with life by taking advantage of and disregarding the basic needs of an innocent child. Yet, despite Ms. Miller’s insights into the origins of her perpetrators’ abusiveness and self-destructiveness, she is more than honest about how these individual’s damaged almost every aspect of her being, thus propelling her into years of addiction and other self-destructive behavior. This book is humbly and clearly written. There are no long psychological complicated explanations, just the facts as she remembers them and her reflections as an adult on a childhood that can only be described as pure hell. It’s amazing that she survived her past, not only in the sense that she didn’t die physically, but in the sense that she overcame her addiction and the emotional blindness caused by years of trauma to the point where she could tell her story.  Given the continuous nature of the traumas she endured and the fact she had to contend with not just one, but many, perpetrators, this is a monumental achievement. It’s also noteworthy that she’s grateful for what she did receive from some of her abusers, which has enabled her to survive. Although there are scores of adult survivors of child abuse, there are few first person accounts of child abuse like this unique book. Many survivors remain in denial, addiction or other forms of escape, and are hence incapable of remembering their past, much less putting their past on paper in a coherent manner that can serve to enlighten others.  But Ms. Miller has done so and her book, the result of decades of hard work and therapy and her own ongoing self-scrutiny, is a gift to us all.

KIRKUS REVIEW

TITLE INFORMATION LORDS HILL A Place Only God Could Save Me From: Based On a True Story Maggie Miller Westbow Press (108 pp.) $28.95 hardcover, $11.95 paperback, $3.99 e-book ISBN: 978-1-4908-5281-2; September 29, 2014 BOOK REVIEW In this unflinchingly candid memoir, debut author Miller recounts a childhood of abuse. When Miller was only a young child, her mother died in an automobile accident while driving drunk. Her father had divorced her mother and already moved on to another marriage, and he wanted nothing to do with Miller and her three siblings. He also withheld child support. The author moved in her with grandmother, Nana, and suffered under her often unkind authority. Her uncle Henry was an unabashed alcoholic who tyrannized the house with his mercurial bouts of insanity and anger. In one particularly upsetting scene, Henry stabs a pony to death in front of her. Miller enjoyed some respite from Henry’s madness during his frequent stays in a mental hospital. Aunt Charlotte, her mother’s oldest sister, often assumed the role of a mother figure, but she was also an incorrigible alcoholic with a predilection for brazen sexual exhibitionism and promiscuity. Miller was, by her own account, a neurotic and emotional child mercilessly targeted by bullies. Such relentless abuse eventually drove her to alcohol as a path to numbed oblivion, and she nearly died in a car accident driving while drunk, a sad echo of her mother’s death. Just as predictably, she sought comfort in the arms of abusive men, looking for self-destructive co-dependence more than authentic love. She became pregnant at 16 and reluctantly aborted the baby under pressure, a decision she always regretted. After leaving an alcoholic husband, she finally found a path to recovery and redemption through a newly discovered faith in God: “Only as my faith has grown into a deeper and more dependent relationship on God and His Son, Jesus, has my life had the most balance and peace.” This is a grim remembrance told—amazingly—without demonizing the tormentors; in fact, Miller lovingly depicts all, even the most abusive, with a forgiving sympathy. For example, she thoughtfully considers the challenges Nana must have faced when suddenly saddled—well into her 60s—with three children to raise. The theme of this inspiring autobiography—beautifully rendered by the author—seems to be the deeply therapeutic value of granting clemency to one’s abusers. A profound meditation on the overcoming of past trauma. EXCERPTING POLICIES Please review Kirkus Media’s excerpting policies before publishing any portion of this review online or in print for any use. To learn about proper attribution and to ensure your use is in compliance with our guidelines, we invite you to visit http://www.kirkusreviews.com/indieexcerpts. Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744 indie@kirkusreviews.com

Review

3 out of 4 stars  ________________________________________ Review by e-tasana-williams  ________________________________________ Share This Review  ________________________________________ "Hate the sin, but love the sinner is what God's word tells us to do". This is Maggie Miller's overall outlook in her autobiography Lords Hill: A Place Only God Could Save Me From. Ms. Miller continually tries to find love for her tormenters. Her sharp-tongued, dutiful grandmother "Nana" loves fiercely and punishes just as fiercely. Her alcoholic, schizophrenic Uncle Henry terrorizes her and her siblings. Her beloved Aunt Charlotte makes her an unwilling witness to adulterous liaisons. In spite of the horrors she endures, Ms. Miller narrates her story with an accepting tone and the belief that the abusive people in her life are simply fallible human beings, not two-dimensional villains.  Most of the perpetrators in Ms. Miller's world are family members. The small town locals of Lords Hill, New Hampshire also make her life difficult. With a well-known family history of poverty, abuse and mental illness, Ms. Miller is an easy target for bullies. As she grows into adolescence she engages in self-destructive behaviors that lead her down the same path as most of her relatives. She starts using drugs and alcohol, and enabling her tormenters. A series of several disturbing events leads her to believe that her life could never amount to anything good. But for her faith in Jesus Christ, this would have been true.  Lords Hill: A Place Only God Could Save Me From is a compelling story. Ms. Miller recounts one instance after another of the emotional and physical abuse she experienced. I don't get the feeling that she is seeking pity from the reader, though. She gives credit to God for helping her forgive others for their abuse and neglect, and for helping her to forgive herself for ruinous choices.  Readers looking for an engrossing autobiography will appreciate this story. As with any tale of long-term abuse and neglect, you will experience sadness, anger and disbelief. Ms. Miller is far from passive, however, and hope will be added to the list of emotions as you read about her learning to advocate for herself. People with a history similar o Ms. Miller's may not enjoy reading this story, as it may trigger unpleasant memories from their past. They may also feel that she forgives too easily, or does not assign enough blame for the damage done.   I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is an honest, compelling true story that touches the reader from the first page to the last. It is in need of further editing, however, as there are several grammatical errors throughout the work. Kudos to Ms. Miller for having the courage and the strength to share such a difficult story with the world.  ****** Lords Hill  View: on Bookshelves | on Barnes and Noble  Like e-tasana-williams's review? Post a comment saying so! Once you learn to read, you will be forever free ~ Frederick Douglas e-tasana-williams's Latest Review: "Lords Hill" by Maggie Miller