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Peeling Away the Facade: The Long Shadow of Child Abuse


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This insightful memoir about sexual exploitation is also about marriage, motherhood, psychology, spirituality and ultimately, healing

We can spend a lifetime battling the childhood monsters under our beds.

Author Lee Reinecke tells the story of monsters and battles with them in her memoir Peeling Away the Façade: The Long Shadow of Child Abuse. Unlike some memoirs about trauma that spend chapters on the abuse itself, Reinecke’s introspective memoir spends its time on the long tentacles of abuse that grip her in adulthood, her marriage, her mothering and even her career choices.

“Continuing education and therapy have since revealed that minimizing the abuses of my childhood led to numerous ill-considered life choices,” she writes. “I don’t think there’s a Richter scale for sexual exploitation.”

The book opens with Reinecke, a victim of child sexual assault, confronting her husband’s infidelity. The mystery of what contributed to this heartache and whether this marriage can survive keeps readers spellbound until the end.

Some victims may wear their wounds blatantly, but Reinecke’s are more like a silent scream. She becomes a demanding perfectionist—with an undercurrent of rage—who lives what looks like a fairy-tale life.

As implied by the title, this honest, sometimes raw memoir is layered. Peeling Away the Façade is about abuse, yes, but it’s also about marriage, motherhood, psychology and spirituality. Reinecke’s words give voice to women who have lived through an assault or abuse and take the reader on the winding path of healing.

Reinecke is a compelling and insightful storyteller, a master of description. Here are a few examples:

“The preschool wing of the church forever smelled of cinnamon toast or one of a dozen lunch specialties made from scratch by ladies with pink cheeks and grins that seemed to come from happy souls.”

“After most Bradshaw meetings, I felt like a fabric remnant that had gone through the heavy soil cycle in the washer, battered and limp, but having ‘come clean.’”

“As he bounded away from the van carrying a clothes basket with sheets, towels, and a roll of quarters, I heaved a sob that may have come from my womb. Was the baby I delivered sans epidural witnessing his parents’ last marital milestone?”

“Ninety percent of the time I stood firm in my conviction that it was time to get on with my life, as Ron was advising, but that skinny dime’s worth of hope niggled at me to be long-suffering when it came to family.”

Picking apart the tapestry of her marriage, Reinecke gives a rare inside perspective on an intimate relationship. She paints a nuanced picture of her flawed husband and, as a trained psychologist, offers searing self-analysis of her own issues and the profound impact of the childhood sexual assault and the resulting perfectionism had on her life.

Her writing appeals to all the senses. Your mouth will water when she writes about food: “Bright red watermelon, the sweetest pineapple I’d ever tasted, butter-dipped lobster, and pink filet mignon were bested only by chocolate lava cake and key lime pie with a dollop of real whipped cream.” You’ll unconsciously inhale when she writes about scent: “Our daffodils bloomed and the spicy fragrance of purple hyacinths drifted in every time we opened the front door.” As an accomplished pianist, she summons powerful description about music: “The trumpet made love to us on some pieces and sassed us upright in our seats during others.” She deftly describes touch, too, both bad encounters and good ones. I’m not going to quote Reinecke’s sexual descriptions in this review but suffice it to say, her descriptions are evocative.

Occasionally, she gets carried away. Chapters about her father’s death, sons’ football season and a sledding accident at the two-thirds point in the story and a romantic relationship near the end of the book are interesting but superfluous and did not propel the action forward.

In riveting exchanges which show her courage, Reinecke details confrontations with her abuser and with her husband’s mistress. Readers are left to wonder what pinnacles she might have attained with that courage if she hadn’t been damaged in childhood.

Recovery from any trauma, be it physical, emotional, psychological, or anything in between, can be a long and arduous process. It looks different for everyone, but all are inspirational. Some people will not be able to put this book down, transfixed by the emotional ebbs and flows. Others may not be able to pick it as her descriptions of betrayal could be triggering.

This memoir will enlighten other survivors of sexual abuse or assault, victims of infidelity, family therapists and parents.

“I want to encourage survivors to invest in themselves, to heal, to find the abundant, contented, successful life they were born to live,” Reinecke writes. “Most importantly, may this book be a cautionary tale of how children can be spared from sexual exploitation if parents and other adults will take preventative action.”

Reviewed by

An independent author who has written five books, Monica Lee also edits and designs books for other self-published authors. A huge fan of memoirs and true life stories in particular. Her most recent work is a biography of her grandmother: Fruitful Labor: How to Live to 104 Gracefully, Gratefully.


About the author

With a BA in social work and Master's and Educational Specialists degrees in school psychology, Lee Reinecke practiced as a licensed school psychologist for thirty-four years. After participating in the first National Child Assault Prevention Project, she led workshops for children ages four-ten. view profile

Published on April 02, 2021

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150000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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