Manipulated lives is a storybook containing five separate, interesting tales of “people who, at different stages of their lives, have come to terms with the damage caused by someone’s manipulative perversion.” That is the short of it and though it explains everything, the reader has yet to comprehend the different stories being told, the implications of what another’s behaviour can have on those who are somehow affected by them.
The first story, ‘the Narcissist’ begins with someone lying in a hospital bed. That person is clearly confused and disoriented, living the last days of his life, invoking empathy with the reader. Both the reader and the person in the bed – a man as it turns out – have the same thoughts: what caused him to lie in that bed and why is he all alone? Obviously, he has children, so why aren’t they with him, helping him cope? Every once in a while the man notices a visitor who reads to him, such as letters from his daughter, and then vanishes into air. The man in the bed has certain flashbacks to a time when he was very much alive, where he tricked himself into all sorts of parties and mingled with the rich upper-class. That’s where he felt he belonged, he earned to be and he’d do anything to stay there, pretend like his beloved “magicians and their illusory tricks” to that extent, that he believes his fabricated lies.
Tess and Tattoos
This story is unbelievably sad, touching and heartwarming. It’s about an elderly woman, Tess, living in an apartment in a home for the elderly. She is bright, shrewd, witty and artistic. But most of all she is lonely – her only son being far away in Australia with his family. The weekly telephone calls are a fragile line between mother and son, whom she will never again see. Tess is not proud of her life, of the decisions she’s made, the terribly wrong choices leading up to her current situation. When new nurse Sandra, a single parent of three children after the death of her beloved husband, meets Tess they feel a connection. There is warmth, tenderness, joy and pleasure in their daily encounters. Slowly Sandra starts to understand who Tess is, but she is only allowed to see a fragment of Tess’ damaged soul. Theirs is a special friendship and they cherish it, while it enables Tess finally to open up.
Sophie has it all: a career, loving parents and siblings and close friends to hang out with. One day she sees a frail 6-year-old boy playing alone and her life changes forever. She feels for little Leo and somehow they connect. It’s only natural that one day she meets Leo’s dad David. They fall in love and Sophie starts neglecting her friends and family for her newfound family. But she feels ill at ease throughout, as if she subconsciously knows that all is not well. The Spell is a complicated tale of manipulation in various forms, from imposing a desired look and fitting behaviour upon someone, to taking over one’s emotions as one’s own in order to identify with one’s (mental) tormentor, known as the ‘Stockholm Syndrom’. It is a difficult story and it was a quest for the truth, for who was manipulating whom – but as usual it is the young and innocent that will suffer the consequences ultimately.
A month before turning 16 Holly has reached her goal – she has saved up since she was eight years old to get away from the stuffy two-bedroom apartment she lives in with her alcoholic mum, dad and two brothers. She figured the £ 1500 will get her to an aunt in Scotland, where she can live and breathe in the healthy country air opposed to the “noisy, stinky London” atmosphere. All her childhood years she has dedicated to scrambling together the money, not spending any of it on luxuries, parties or even her two best friends Sara and Tina. The serious Holly who has focused so long on anything but real life is an easy prey – for people like Luke who use manipulation to satisfy their needs, who are unable to feel empathy and therefore cannot connect to others. Where Holly is so strong in reaching her goals, is she able to withstand Luke? Can she fight for herself? And why is it that these people tend to destruct everything around you, estrange you from friends and family, cause you to doubt their motives?
My Perfect Child
Lisa is 39 years old when she gives birth to Lucas, her only child, a gorgeous baby. Lisa is “determined to fill her son’s fist years with the love, affection and attention, which .. she had always sorely lacked herself..” Lucas’ childhood and teenage years are filled with an overprotective mother, who finds excuses for every fault Lucas has made, every lack in behaviour he shows. He is her perfect one and thoroughly blameless. We can only imagine the burden and the consequences of such an upbringing. The fascinating and difficult question arises: is Lucas’ behaviour nurture or nature? Now Lisa realises how the dreams she pursued and the air castles she created were just illusions, like the photo albums. The unexpected ending turns everything upside down – is it too late for mother and son to reconcile?
The five stories give a fascinating insight into the world of manipulators and those manipulated. We experience the consequences on both sides – where does the need to manipulate come from? Parenting is the most difficult task for any human to undertake – and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Does this cause people to manipulate? Or are you born with the markers for manipulation in your DNA? These are compelling questions and this interesting book shows us the devastating effects of manipulative behaviour on people’s lives. The reader learns that there are more sides to a story, that the truth is subjective and that people, however intelligent, are vulnerable and can easily get hurt. The book makes you think, perhaps even recognise aspects of such behaviour – and provides valuable insights into the complexities of social interactions.
About the Author
Manipulated Lives is Helene Leuschel’s debut novel. She studied Journalism in Belgium and worked for radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. Now she is living in Portugal and has, next to being a TV producer and yoga teacher, developed a passion for philosophy, hence her Master degree in Philosophy.
|Publisher||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (28 Jun. 2016)|