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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have the utmost respect and love for Mr. Rivers and his family. It was traumatic to read this book, but I would not give back a moment shared. Sadly, many of us know the debilitating effects of both physical and verbal abuse. We spend a lifetime, with varying degrees of success, juxtaposing the violence of our youth, and the shaming of our souls by those who should unconditionally protect and love us, against the reclaiming of our lost innocence, determination and optimism. Our hearts and souls deserve so much more. To have endured such extreme abuse, and to have fought with so much heart to overcome the systemic indifference of the police, school administators and others who never asked why Victor was so reactive, to have endured long enough to let the angels over ride the evil and negligence, is a testament to Victor's courage, heart and spirit.
This book is amazing not only for it's vulnerability and pain, but also for it's willingness to reveal the depths of darkness so that others in need might have heroes and hope.
I don't think I ever cried so hard while reading a book, but I could not turn away. I was riveted to the page. Thank you to Victor, Mim and Eli for all of your courage and love. READ THIS BOOK! And while you are at it, read Mim Eichler Rivas' BEAUTIFUL JIM KEY. What a family. So much kindness, patience, talent and generosity of spirit.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon May 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER takes up the story of one of Hollywood's leading actors, whom you have seen in so many TV shows and movies, and strips off the surface to reveal that behind the handsome mask he wears, a nightmare of terror and horror will forever haunt Victor Rivas, as the demons that have haunted him since childhood keep whistling through his mind like witches on broomsticks. He never has had a day without reliving the traumas of his difficult youth, particularly standing in the shadow of an abusive Dad, whose beatings he endured on a regular basis. Sometimes the father seems so wound up he's unreal, but through the eyes of a child, evil often wears a human face, and all too often, as Mr. Rivas demonstrates, that evil is in the father.

I liked all the Cuban stuff, an area I know little about. The family left Cuba when Castro came to power, because his father's family occupied important positions in the cabinet of the corrupt dictator Bautista (still fondly remembered, it seems, by many anti-Communist Cuban Americans). When you read A PRIVATE FAMILY MATTER perhaps you, like I, flashed back to the great novel by Reinaldo Arenas, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, with its odd mixture of a longing for indigenous culture and a fleeing from its misogynist and anti-child aspects. The smells and sounds come out at you in waves of sensuous description.

Most of all, however, you feel the boy's pain. His father was truly a monster, and his mother was completely cowed by what amounts to the abuse he meted out to whoever got in the way of his anger and machismo. Beyond that, Victor reveals what it took to get him to become a productive adult. There had to be a lot of repair work done on this man. Next time you see him in the movies, think of how much his acting talent comes from the resources it took for him to find the light in a dark world of abuse. And now he helps others who have suffered some of the same syndromic abuse. Highly recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. At first you react with shock, then disbelief, tears, and finally joy as you ride with Victor on his incredible journey. The story is unbelievably compelling - I couldn't put the book down, though some events were so difficult to read about, I wanted to. Victor's father is more than a match for any terrible fathers in past books -- THE GREAT SANTINI, for instance. But what's really amazing, and really moving, is how Victor triumphed over the odds, with the help of his "angels," to become not only a good kid but the school's valedictorian and eventually a good father.

It's also great that there this is a lot of information at the end of the book in how to get help if you need it or how to become involved in the movement if you feel so inspired - and after reading this incredibly powerful book, you will.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
We all grew up in dysfunctional families. But some might be called suicidal rather than dysfunctional. How does a child who starts being beaten when he is fifteen months old grow up to be even sane? How does a child grown up into manhood and break the only pattern he has seen while growing up?

Perhaps the answer comes when you see the photograph of the author first holding his own new born son in his arms. He says, "The moment I held Eli in my arms, I knew I could never hurt him the way that my father hurt me." The day you first hold your own new born is a kind of magic day in your life. I remember it well.

This is a story of great sadness. This is a story that happens all too often. And all too often the cycle of violence continues from one generation to another. This is also a story of great triumph as the author preports on how he managed to overcome a childhood from hell. This part of the story doesn't happen often enough, it's glorous when it does.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Victor Rivers displays such courage, both in escaping from the horrible violence his father inflicted on him, and in breaking the cycle with his own child. Every parent should buy this book for their sons; Victor's father is an extreme example, but any kind of emotional or physical abuse is WRONG, and our children need to be taught that being a real man means never, ever resorting to violence.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an incredibly well written book!! It's hard to believe anyone can survive such circumstances and even more impressive is the man Victor turned into. He has overcome terrible abuse to become a loving father and husband. If only everyone who experienced abuse could break the cycle! He goes on to become a national spokesman against violence to help other families and other children like himself.

There isn't a boring page in this book, very highly recommended!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Victor Rivers is a handsome man. Movie star, college educated, Football player.
A big, strong, tough man who was reduced to weeping when taken back to his horrific childhood in countless nightmares. So terrifying, so brutal for his wife to endure, she could only cry as he fought the demons of domestic violence.
Countless women have told their stories. Hoping to save, `just one person.' Reliving their own personal hell with each word. You will relive Mr. Rivers personal hell. He takes the reader from a little boy to a full grown man, still fighting the little guys fight. He tells his story to help others. I believe it will.
If you know nothing of domestic violence, you will have a better understanding after you read this book. You may find it hard to comprehend. You will ask yourself, `How do people let this happen?' `Why not just leave?' Read on.
If you're a victim or a survivor, it is graphic. Mr. Rivers does not soften his story. He shouldn't. You will ask yourself how every domestic violence story can be so similar. You will cry many times. You will laugh a few times. You will love him when his son is born.
No one looks at Victor Rivers, with all of his successes, and thinks of domestic violence. He was a victim, he is a survivor. For all of these reasons I thank him, and his family, for telling his story. I respect him for wanting to help, `just one person.'
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
A Private Family Matter by Victor Rivas Rivers

How does a child survive his boyhood with a father who delivers endless emotional, verbal, and physical torture?

This is what the reader learns from Victor Rivas. Born in Cuba, his family immigrated to America before Castro's rule. Yet Victor did not escape the sadistic dictatorship of his own father. The torture that the father inflicted upon his family is difficult for a reader to process, yet it brings awareness to the tough topic of domestic violence.

The reader learns of a frustrating social system that denied resources to the most vulnerable victims: women and children. When Victor's mother visits a police station to tell of the abuse she was experiencing, she was told that there was nothing they could do. They told her to call the next time he was beating her! When Victor ran to the police station to show his bruised pubescent body to the officers, they told him there was nothing they could do because it was "a private family matter."

Victor's father ruined everything, and stole his son's right to self-determination. After witnessing abuse upon his mother, his brothers, and his pets, as well as enduring the vicious assaults from his father, Victor runs away from his house-of-horrors. He was safer sleeping in a cemetery. Naturally, he becomes a hostile, hopeless adolescent.

Yet Victor was rescued by seven families, teachers, and coaches. He spent the last years of high school learning to give and receive love. He became an athlete, actor, and advocate.

A review of 300-400 words cannot possibly convey the poignancy of this story. It is well-written, with a sprinkling of enjoyable observations, such as an anecdote about acclimating to Miami in August, and the bug life "spawned by the moisture." Victor Rivas Rivers also shares his survival lessons as he pushes through his tough assignment.

As an author of a memoir Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story with the same topics, I can identify with the ironic twists and turns of the home-site battlefield, as well as the universal themes of triump over tragedy. As an advocate, I would recommend this book as "a must read" for breaking the silence and cycles of violence and challenging society to promote peace in our homes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I truly could not put this book down once I picked it up and began reading. Vic Rivas is a brave soul for sharing this difficult and heart-rending account of growing up a household with an abusive father. This story is a hero's journey. I was particularly driven to hours of contemplation over this book because I grew up down the street from the Echeverria home where Vic was given shelter, love and normalcy. It made me think how you can see a person every day but never know what lives inside his mind, the problems he bears and what he has suffered. Vic Rivas became an icon in my home town, and eventually created a future for himself beyond the capacity of most people. Somehow he was able to stay focused on the potential for love. I do not know how. Certainly, this book is a treasure for everyone to read, because it looks at the impact of abuse, as well as the unpredictability and cowardice of the abuser. Vic has shown that his mind and heart proved more powerful than fists and words of hate. His victimization was not his fault and his trauma is shared by all of us in society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Victor's talent for writing and impressive memory brings you right into his story. You feel as if you are there, witnessing it all. All the while, I became was his personal cheerleader in my mind, encouraging him to succeed, which he does. Victor has lead a tragic and exciting life, but most important, he became a survivor and a champion for all who are like him. Breaking the chain of abuse is a long hard road, but it is possible. I hope those who struggle with breaking that chain will hear his story and know it can be done.
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