Coercive control, domestic violence, suicidal ideation, and career uncertainty are pertinent topics that we are confronting in Australia. Here is a book that examines the dynamics of relationships related to contemporary issues that we face in society.
‘What happens when you face your past? Can life ever be the same?’
Emily, aged 40, has it all – the executive career, successful lifestyle in London and life on her own terms. Until she is reluctantly forced to return to her family in Melbourne as her mother is dying. Assiduously avoided for twenty years, she must confront her unhappy childhood from a bullying father, broken mother, and her artist brother who struggles with his own demons.
As the author explains, “This is an intense story about finding courage and strength in dark places. How the long fingers of grief, emotional abuse and loss reach into the lives of everyone involved. About how dealing with a past you’d rather forget can bring release.”
A book in 3 parts, one Returning; Two Unravelling; and Three Returning, we learn what happens to a cultivated persona when memories and long-held secrets surface. Defences fall apart and devastating consequences ensue. But this book is a message of hope that exhorts people to find the words to speak their truth.
The author hopes that readers will come to understand that there are many forms of abuse in families and that they impact people in different ways ‘behind closed doors.’
While writing her book over five years, Gwyneth Graham was surprised at how the characters grow and take on a life of their own, although their core remains the same. The more she delved into them, the more they became their own person and became even more than a sum of their parts that she had initially constructed.
Research in Australia has identified that approximately 75% of females identify with a ‘feeling’ type preference. What is life like for the minority 25% who have a ‘thinking’ preference? Females with a ‘thinking’ preference invariably have a hard time in our culture during school and in their early career years. However, they invariably gain promotions and positions of leadership in organisations that usually favour a ‘thinking’ style associated with most males.
As a ‘thinking preferred’ type of female, Emily, the protagonist, is similar to 75 per cent of women in senior management roles.
The author writes a sympathetic understanding of the struggles that a female leader has in both a family and an organisation. At times very funny, she also gives insight that can be useful for ‘feeling’ preferred females into how their behaviour can be interpreted by an outcome-driven boss who holds great responsibility for keeping everything afloat.
Just as ‘feeling’ preferred women need to learn to own their own power and authority in a #meToo culture, Emily learns to become more tolerant and patient with others who may be less efficient and effective people and she locates an acceptance of her vulnerability and fear. Amusing touches include the wardrobe descriptions, a penchant for the colour green, and hairstyles.
She is counterbalanced by her boyfriend Phillip, a psychologist who helps to bring out her feeling aspects and helps her to learn to trust. She has avoided intimacy and neediness as a result of her childhood and we see her grow as she learns to trust.
“Philip said…that music let a little more of your emotion out. She’d found that death did that too… It’s over, it’s over (between them). But he reappeared. She knew it was Phillip she wanted to be with. She, Emily, who prided herself on not needing anyone, admitting to a longing that strengthened rather than faded. And now she would admit it out loud…. The last few weeks had torn away her protective fortress, exposing her in ways she would not previously have allowed. For the first time, she would lead an emotional conversation, risk herself.”
Her father, Ben, is a retired doctor who has bullied the members of her family despite the caring elements that he has shown his patients.
The book gives us a map for self-reflection that can help people heal from bullying, coercive control, and domestic violence in addition to appreciating that both men and women have thinking and feeling elements that require expression and acceptance if we are to become whole.
The cover image, by Anthony Stevens, is a haunting and clever interpretation of her words. Long fingers indeed.
About the author Gwyneth Graham
“ As with many authors, I have found there are themes which draw me. Questions of identity, control, courage, inner strength, the experiences which shape us, abusive relationships, the complexities of life. Much of my writing touches on these, enjoying unearthing what sits below the surface. Perhaps influenced in part from my own experience as an English migrant to Australia at the age of 11, perhaps from growing up in an increasingly controlling, religious fundamentalist family, which I feel fortunate to have left behind. Those experiences regularly raise their heads in my work.
I have lived for many years in the vibrant inner west of Melbourne, enjoying the community of varied peoples, cultures, arts and the way it has changed around me. I coach leaders and mentor others, interested in what drives, frees and restricts people, exploring what it takes for all of us to believe in ourselves and find the strength to make change.”
‘The Long Fingers’ by Gwyneth Graham, 2000.
Purchase via gwynethgraham.com