When I started reading Marion Witte's memoir, I told my husband, "This is my story!" I couldn't stop reading it. I wanted to know how she overcame all that abuse and abandonment. It took years of counseling and hard work on her part, but she came out the other side a healed person. That's what all of us survivors want. Thank you, Marion, for sharing your journey with us.
As I read the synopsis for Little Madhouse on the Prairie, I felt as though I were stepping back into my childhood. Many similarities existed between Marion Elizabeth Witte's life and my own as expressed in those few paragraphs. There was no way I could not read this book. I wanted to know more about this woman.
Witte's life on the prairie was definitely not the stuff of Laura Ingalls Wilder's version we are all so accustomed to envisioning when we hear the words "Little House on the Prairie." It is the word "Madhouse" in Witte's title that should draw us up short.
Witte writes with raw and painful honesty and clarity of what happened behind the walls of that little house on the prairie. Not much love, compassion and care was shared with Witte and her siblings. Her father, an alcoholic and abuser, more or less ignored Witte. For a time before the youngest of three children was born, Witte could look to her older brother for what she needed in the way of emotional support and encouragement. Then he too turned his back on her favoring the youngest child.
Witte's brother was even drawn into her abuses by their mother instructing him to lock Witte in the cellar in the dark -- no windows, no light, only the dark and sounds and cold. At the time, Witte was only five years old. The little house was not a home; it was a house of horrors.
Witte narrates for us the journey she has taken from that five-year old in the dark basement to a denial of her treatment to her own self-awareness and healing from the treatment she received. Using her narration, she invites into the child's mind -- why did no one protect her? or the cousin who was abused by Witte's father's brother? where were the adults who were to take care of children?
As an adult, Witte experiences many difficulties in relationships and through some miracle seeks help in a variety of therapeutic methods. She finds healing and turns her pain into efforts to advocate for abused children.
Through sharing her story, Marion Elizabeth Witte offers the gift of hope to those who need healing or who are healing that there is recovery. For professionals treating patients who were or are victims of child abuse, she sheds light on the needs of these victims.
With bravery and courage, Witte has taken to the page her story of abuse, neglect and pain. She has touched others with her story of vulnerability, determination and healing.
For those who were victims of childhood abuse who are still attempting to find healing and recovery, for spouses and family members of these victims, and for professionals treating patients who are victims of childhood abuse. An excellent look into what goes on behind closed doors and windows and the impact of the hidden scars of verbal and emotional abuse.
Most memoirs detailing a difficult childhood stop once the tragedy is told and the happy ending is revealed. This is not the case with Little Madhouse on the Prairie, by Marion Elizabeth Witte. What sets this poignant memoir apart is that it goes on, into the author's adulthood. It tells us what happens after the so-called happy ending, when real life sets in and the repercussions of a childhood filled with abuse can no longer be ignored.
Throughout the book, Witte shares deeply personal episodes of her lonely and often terrifying upbringing on the plains of North Dakota. Reading about the abuse endured by an innocent child is never easy, and Witte's experiences were especially unpleasant. As ugly as her childhood was, I found it refreshing that she was able to recall some bright spots as well, to temper the real life nightmare she was living. While writing her memoir must have surely been cathartic, it is much more than a self-serving tome attempting to shock its readers with tales of unimaginable horrors. It is a testament to other children living in similar situations. It is a reminder that we all have a responsibility to those children, to pay attention to their bruises, believe their far-fetched stories, and step in whenever necessary.
Little Madhouse on the Prairie is an insightful and interesting read. While, due to its subject matter, the book's very nature is depressing and rather melancholy, I also found it to be quite enlightening, as it delved deeply into how Witte's childhood experiences continued to affect her well into adulthood. I commend her for continuing her road to self-discovery, for doing the hard work necessary to grow and move on from her tragic past, and for bravely sharing it all with her readers.
It is a lot easier to live in our pain and misfortune, torturing ourselves and not being able to see how good things can come from something that has been so dark and ugly. Individuals like Marion Elizabeth Witte, however, show us that although it's not easy to move past the hurt it definitely pays off in the end.
Her book LITTLE MADHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE showcases not the dysfunction that she was able to overcome that occurred in her youth but how she was able to remove the mask that had become part of her protection for so long. I think the biggest lesson for readers of this book will be to understand and appreciate the importance of living your own truth. It might not be what you wanted for yourself, but the joy comes in knowing that your day is yours to claim. Marion wasn't going to be defined by what had happened to her, and neither should we.
Now because of her courage and being able to forgive and move forward she is setting an example for other individuals around the world. What a great example of what we all can do if we make up our minds to do so. LITTLE MADHOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE shares the pain and the healing that takes place in order to make us whole.
When one thinks of a little house on the prairie, visions of strong family ties, loving parents and childhood memories of romping through fields and streams come to mind. But for Marion Witte, it was a house of horrors. She suffers beyond what any child or human being should suffer at the hands of an alcoholic emotionally-absent father, a cruel, emotionally disturbed mother and an older brother who turns against her. With soul-baring detail, she chronicles her journey from this abusive, isolated childhood, where her mother locks her in a cold, dark basement for punishment when she is 5 years old through her courageous journey to self-awareness and healing when she is an adult. As the adult narrator, she reflects back upon her painful childhood memories in a way that invites us into the mind of a child and helps us experience the hardships and abuse she endured. Looking at her kindergarten picture of a beautiful, yet sad five year old with a bruise on her cheek brings home not only the pain of abuse but the mores of the times which dictated that people stay out of other people's business. No one advocated for this precious child despite clear evidence of wrongdoing. Her writing style is engaging and reflects compassion, insight and resilience. As a child, she witnesses the abuse of her cousin by her father's brother. Again no one steps in to defend the child. In her back story, we see how the cycle of abuse has been perpetuated through the generations. With painstaking honesty, she guides us through the difficulties she experiences in her adulthood as a result of her childhood abuse, showing how the events and people from her past have followed her. She takes us through her denial into her journey of self-awareness which ultimately leads to her healing. She turns her pain into a blessing as she carves out a mission to help children who have endured childhood abuse. In showing us her pathway to healing from childhood abuse, Marion gives a gift of hope. For those who have been abused, there is hope for recovery. For those who have never been abused, she raises awareness. For those who are in the helping professions, she offers insights in the healing process. This is an inspirational and brave story, beautifully written by a woman who was willing to face her vulnerabilities and share her personal journey. In showing how she found a purpose for her pain, she has touched us all.
A friend recommended Little Madhouse on the Prairie to me, although it is not one of the genres that generally appeals to me.
I must say I was shocked as I read this book, perhaps due to the sheltered childhood I had. I come from a very loving home, so the idea that a child could be treated the way it is portrayed in the book was very foreign to me. It was not the easiest material to absorb, but I am glad I stuck with it. For one thing, I feel so fortunate to have been raised in the environment I was. The "problems" in my childhood seem very unimportant when I now understand what other children have to endure. I also realize now that I probably have friends in my life who have had difficult childhoods, but who don't talk about it because of the guilt and shame. I think reading this book has opened my eyes, and made me a more aware and compassionate person.
I could not put this book down - Marion Witte's story of childhood abuse, her survival and her eventual road to recovery were truly inspirational. Anyone who has a history of family abuse will appreciate this story and celebrate Marion's triumph of spirit and the creation of a beautiful life in spite of her past.
Reading this book allowed me the ability to embrace my childhood experiences with no shame, honesty and healing. I honor Marions journey and her courage to share with the world what so many might have experienced but have felt the need to keep it inside and true healing comes when we can simply recognize, acknowledge , forgive and then change our beliefs about who we truly our inside. I hope that this book reaches the many who could use the story to heal themselves.
This is a true story, Marion Witte's story. She goes into intimate detail to explain how things came to be the way they were. She is very sensitive and even understanding of what her family was like and who they were. Marion offers acceptance and respect to the people that were her grandparents and parents, in spite of things not being "right". I found this to be a great statement about healing and the person that Marion Witte has become. Marion chooses to focus on the journey of overcoming abuse. She tells of the effects of what she endured because of the abuse, but even more importantly the recovery involved in surviving abuse. She does not focus on the what, so much as the why, and the way out. The journey is difficult, yet Marion Witte reaches deep within herself to overcome years, even generations of abuse. She sets forth an example for others on similar journeys of their own. Marion searches for herself through many sources from medical professionals to spiritual shaman. What we sometimes cannot understand, we must learn to accept in order to heal and overcome. Forgiveness is the key to healing. Ultimately, Marion does find herself and healing. She also finds she has much to offer and share. Marion sets herself free, through acceptance, forgiveness and healing. Marion Witte's message is important. It is one about overcoming abuse and healing the spirit. The world is a better place because of Marion Witte and her brave and honest book.
I was given Little Madhouse on the Prairie some time ago. After reading it, I was moved to comment on it, in hopes that it will wind up in the hands of those who can benefit from its message.
Marion Witte's story is every child's worst nightmare. The fact that she endured the physical and emotional scares of her childhood is incredible. But, even more incredible, is her intense desire to prevent or help others who might be suffering as she did. This is truly a case of realizing the blessing that can be found in the worst of circumstances.
Little Madhouse on the Prairie: A True-Life Story of Overcoming Abuse and Healing the Spirit is the story of a childhood filled with mistreatment and one person's path to recovery. Read it if you want to know what real inspiration truly is. I give a copy of `Madhouse' to many of my clients as a message of hope and help.
Ms. Witte is not now, nor has she ever been, a patient of mine.
Dr. Bunny Vreeland Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist