Two Lives of Annie McGraw: Transcending Adversity.
A book by Sherris Madden Neary
Forward By Brother Joshua Seidl, SSP
Are children as resilient as their abusers say? Do they forget as the self-absorbed, apathetic, and beaten down spouse parent wish they would be? Or, do they become deaf, dumb and blind as in the 1969 rock opera Tommy by the music group, The Who? Sharris Neary’s poem, Strength in Weakness, gives voice to pain as truth breaks through the silent barriers of domestic abuse.
“I stay the same age I was in the crib,” confesses another adult in Neary’s poem, Conversation With Myself. We all have a child within, that being our childhood. Neary touches that child. Every hand, by nature, contains salt that can sting these raw grazed hearts and other wounds. This is true even for the most delicate and caring hand reaching to heal. The momentary sting is welcomed if it is from one who can be trusted. What of those who pour salt into the wound not for any healing properties, but because they know it will hurt?
Neary speaks for those who put on the fine dresses and coats their abusive husbands bought them. One thinks of those ladies with sunglasses to veil the black eyes makeup can’t cover. A stubborn wounded pride will not surrender to sound reason and positive purpose, but covers up. The little children, the unwanted mistakes, put on a strong front. Yet, they imagine themselves walking with arms crossed above the waist nursing a stomach punched by words.
We hear of that in families, in Churches and in civic organizations. We may or not be aware of who among our acquaintances are like those in these stories. I was honored when I was asked to sum things up for Neary’s book. I felt it was imperative to publish these stories as much for the topics as for her excellent delivery and writing style.
Auntie Sherry, as I call the author, shared her first published work with me, Lorraine. It is one of the most powerful pro-life presentations I have ever read. It does not carry on as one might expect of a pro-life story, but I am certain most readers can see how it is a life topic. The issues are not limited to the moment and means that a baby leaves a womb. The ugly, shameful secrets hidden behind many doors in our communities initiate the domino effect that ends up harming or killing the innocent ones. We see how the good can be transformed to evil. These stories also show how wrong can be reformed to accomplish good. Thus, I have come to see in my own way, many reasons for Neary’s subtitle for this book, Transcending Adversity.
In Medicine Pouch, Neary writes of the protagonist: Wearing a flimsy see-through purple blouse … her eyes swept the room: a predator stalking her prey.
Within, however, is a heart haunted from when someone preyed upon her as a child. She subconsciously seeks a prey that will swallow her.
These stories are provocative with a positive goal in mind. They prod the consciousness with promise to develop in positive living ways. They are not written to disparage, but rather with hope. They are written by someone who dedicated her time and career so that those who once crawled and wept, will now dance and leap and laugh from joy. They pull out soul-searching questions aimed at positive development.
Neary dangles possible answers in her composition in the story, The Lesson.
Native American story telling more often than not has abrupt, unsolved endings like we read in Lorraine and some other works by Neary. Lorraine’s dilemma is dumped in the hearer’s lap without resolve and without articulating a moral to the story. We, the readers, suddenly find ourselves holding this unfinished saga. We cannot go back and have the story re-written and sanitized. Nothing prepared any of us to hold the young daughter Maddie back and shield her eyes and ears from what just took place. Like Maddie, we can only move forward. How? Can you or I reason with Max without increasing his wrath?
Getting involved is a serious risk to ourselves and as well as to little Maddie and women in Lorraines situation.
These stories heal. They offer hope for those groping in and from dark places. For those of us who are fortunate to have had secured upbringings, marriages and families, Neary sheds light on what some of our neighbors might be going through. There are abusive Maxes and beaten down Lorraines in all walks of life, and in every economy, race and religions. It takes the healthy and it takes those who been there and crawled into a new light to recognize the signs and to learn the best means to intervene and break the wretched cycle of generational abuse. It is unfair to excuse the abused who becomes an abuser; but understanding the signs can lead us to the correct methods of intervention.
Prayer is powerful, but it necessitates that we do; that we act. Protesting outside abortion clinics might have saved a few. Rooting out the domestic causes of abuse is a preventative measure that will save countless more, the unborn and those unwanted, unappreciated and those born to be abused. Love is not always lacking. Rather it is twisted and distorted. Understanding the reasons does not lesson the pain. Self-righteous chastising clichés, in many cases, is in itself a link in the chain of abuse.
Neary has another unique gift in writing, and that is in her descriptive character development. I am delighted with her description of six Church ladies packed like tomatoes into a blue sedan. The Prophet and prayer brings them together to make the journey in faith, but each lady is there for her own purpose and need, because of their own unique personal histories, seeking something, someone or some answer for themselves. Their reasons are personal to each individual, yet a common faith enticed them to travel together.
Available from Amazon in paperback, from Barnes And Nobles in paperback and Nook, iTunes, and through Lulu.com.