cover image Beneath the Bruises

Beneath the Bruises

Dywane D. Birch, . . Atria/Strebor, $13 (242pp) ISBN 978-1-59309-208-5

A courageous African-American housewife and mother of five seeks freedom from domestic abuse in Birch's powerful ode to self-renewal (and her own work with domestic violence victims). When Syreeta Lynch marries Randall Michael Taylor III, her high school sweetheart, she has no idea that, 11 years later, she'll feel trapped by her perfect union. In that time, Randy becomes a successful investment banker, but also a manipulative monster with no qualms about physically and emotionally punishing his 32-year-old wife when she doesn't behave according to his whims. Then Syreeta's chance encounter with therapist Dr. Jordan Curtis leads her to seek help. With an intense first-person narration, Birch depicts Syreeta's journey of healing; raw, intimate struggles with Randy, revealing sessions with Dr. Curtis and a late-book conversation with her angry older son, K'wan, are especially well-wrought. Syreeta's Aunt Edie dispenses advice on the nature and importance of responsibility (“Every day is a choice”), in case the empower-yourself message didn't quite make it through; if readers can forgive Birch's occasional excesses, they'll find this an honest and inspiring novel. (Nov.)