Working with Available Light: A Family's World After Violence

Jamie Kalven, Author W. W. Norton & Company $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-04690-8
What distinguishes this harrowing memoir of the aftermath of rape is that it is written--and written beautifully--not by the victim but by her husband. During a midday lakefront jog in Chicago in 1988, photographer Patricia Evans, the author's wife, was brutally beaten and raped. Her attacker was never caught. Kalven reports that Evans, like many rape victims, experienced a deep sense of powerlessness and disconnectedness. Struggling with overwhelming grief and suppressed rage, she saw a therapist, enrolled in a self-defense course, took sleeping pills and, with her husband's help, analyzed her nightmares. Kalven writes movingly about all this and also about his own feelings of helplessness--especially his discomfort with his own physical strength and sexuality in the wake of the attack. He states that he set out to write this book in a way that would help his wife heal, and it certainly is an act of love--the culmination, apparently, of an arduous therapeutic process that severely tested their marriage. It is also an act of literature. Kalven broadens his cathartic memoir with reflections on the racial divide in America (his wife is white, her attacker black) and on how violence in its many forms shapes society. What is most impressive about this tender and candid book is the balance Kalven strikes between trying to comprehend his wife's experience and knowing that, to some extent, her experience will be forever beyond his grasp. It is immensely touching to see this man feel and, very deliberately, write his way through his own pain and bewilderment into some still deeper knowledge, however filtered, of the woman he loves. (Mar.) FYI: See the review, below, of Patricia Weaver Francisco's Telling, a memoir by a rape victim.
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
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