The Other Side: A Memoir Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 15, 2014
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*The Other Side chosen as a finalist for an Edgar Award
*Kirkus names The Other Side one of the best books of 2014
*Chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick
*Kirkus calls The Other Side a modern classic"
*The Houston Chronicle names The Other Side one of the 20 best books of 2014
"Ferociously beautiful and courageous, Johnson’s intimate story sheds light on the perpetuation of violence against women."
"Johnson’s matter-of-fact retelling of the horrors that befell her is by turns poetic and journalistic but harrowing all the way through."
Starred Library Journal
"This riveting narrative of a young woman's kidnapping and rape at the hands of a former boyfriend moves fluently between dissociation and healing."
"After she ends their abusive relationship, Johnson's ex kidnaps, rapes, and imprisons her. The frankness and eloquence of Johnson's writing puts this true-crime memoir in a league of its own."
"The Other Side [is] written with both fury and restraint. The reader feels pulled onto a fast train, in a compartment with a narrator telling an intimate and terrifying tale."
Wall Street Journal
Her powerful new memoir, The Other Side, is about more than the crime. It’s about how complicated abusive relationships actually are. It’s about how we tell and re-tell the stories that shape our lives.”
The Houston Chronicle
"The Other Side is neither flowery nor stale, never shy or gratuitous. Instead, its haunting beauty grips the reader from the opening line. Also of note, this is not a book whose readership can be defined by gender or role or experience. A wide audience will relate to Johnson's talk of tattoos and pharmaceuticals, overlooked aspects of motherhood (moms are also humans with backstories), and creative spirits in a harsh world. The Other Side is unforgettable."
The Austin Chronicle
"The shock of violence, the uncertainty of memory, and the jagged path of healing are the skillfully braided strands of The Other Side, Lacy M. Johnson's poetic, harrowing new memoir about an abusive and very nearly deadly relationship."
"The tone of this memoir might have been completely different if the perpetrator would have been caught . . . The terror of his return, of further injury to body and psyche, follows Johnson wherever she turns. Her direct and honest prose not only evokes empathy, but an incendiary anger knowing that this existence is not just a reality for Johnson, but for countless other women as well."
"The tension between fact and perception forms the book’s intellectual backbone, and though The Other Side begins as a true-crime story, it flowers into an investigation of memory. Despite the subject matter, Johnson never wallows in bleakness. Her writing style is engaging and redemptive, a trick accomplished partly by virtue of Johnson’s voiceclear and direct, but with a breezy archness that belies her story’s dark core. Upon seeing her possessions in a Ziploc bag marked EVIDENCE, Johnson writes: Nice to meet you, Evidence.” Elsewhere she exhibits both the touch of a poet (blood in her mouth becomes the taste of a penny stolen from the kitchen jar”) and a novelist’s eye for character-fleshing detail (her mother addresses crises with Cool Ranch Doritos)."
"The Other Side is powerful in its effort to do the impossible."
San Antonio Current
"On a meta-level, The Other Side is not only about the desire to understand what is ultimately incomprehensible, but also about the messy, complicated work of translating personal experience for public audiences."
The San Francisco Chronicle
"Written. . . in short chunks of powerful prose, not always chronological (though perfectly clear to follow), circling closer and closer to that day, finally zooming in on what exactly happened in that basement.
"[The Other Side is] a powerful memoir."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"This captivating memoir is as troubling as it is compelling. In The Other Side, Johnson relates the wrenching story of her victimization by an older man with whom she willingly became involved."
Real Change News
"Johnson’s memoir is an extraordinary document, and she herself holds an important place in a movement to stop violence against women."
"The descriptions are vivid and the victim is, of course, real. But throughout The Other Side Johnson’s choices are literary rather than cathartic and by the end of the book, we can only conclude that the two are one and the same. Johnson survives this experience, and the result of her years of reflection and gained insight is a well-crafted memoir that will make her a notable figure in her chosen genre."
"Gritty and gripping . . . Johnson’s haunting and powerful memoir is told with such intensely lyrical prose, it demands that you push any light, fluffy summer books aside and commit fully to this skillfully woven, disorienting narrative. Reading The Other Side is thrilling.
"Unsparing in both its brutality and its beauty. It knocked me out and lifted me up."
Carrie Brownstein, Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia
"In this brilliant memoir, Lacy Johnson offers us a guide to the impossiblehow to reconstruct a past when the past itself is shattered, each memory broken into pieces, left rattling around inside us. Sometimes flashes of poetry are all that we can find in the wreckage, sometimes these flashes are all that can possibly save us, brought together for brief, burning instances, and then let go. The Other Side bristles with life and energy and to read it is to be transformed.
Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
"Wow. Just...Wow. The Other Side is the sonic boom of a powerful story meeting an even more powerful storyteller. It's hard to say anything about a book that leaves you this breathless. Lacy Johnson is my new literary hero."
Mat Johnson, author of PYM
"Lacy M. Johnson’s powerfully moving and brilliantly structured memoir, The Other Side, asks, How is it possible to reclaim the body after devastating violence?” Her intense desire and demand for a life lived in the body is triumphant. Johnson’s strength to free not only her physical self, but also to move through years of incapacitating fear by writing this book, is breathtaking: 'I lift the chain from my neck, over my head, let it rattle to the floor'."
Kelle Groom, author of I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
"In this relentlessly honest memoir, she searches through her shredded memories of their relationship and his descent into the violence that nearly killed her. More importantly, she writes movingly about her attempts, first faltering, to overcome her depression, anxiety, and despair, and her gathering strength to confront the future."
Barnes & Noble
"I still can't stop talking about this book and thinking about it and feeling deeply emotional about it. Some books just kick you hard in the gut and you see the world differently."
Book People of Moscow
"When she was twenty-one, Lacy M. Johnson was kidnapped, raped, and nearly murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Johnson’s new memoir The Other Side is her reconstruction of that time in her lifeof the events leading up to and away from that harrowing act of domestic violence. Yet The Other Side does something remarkable: Despite its disturbing content, it never wallows in despair. Instead, it becomes a moving, life-affirming work about learning to take control of one’s own story."
"To put this memoir to paper was brave. To have that bound, sold and read by the general public is downright heroic. The Other Side will break your heart and shatter your spirit. It will also be the most hopeful and inspirational book you read this year. Maybe ever. Ms. Johnson reconstructs the broken bits of her mind and body before our eyes, at once questioning memory and choices made but ultimately owning her situation. Poetic and gut wrenching, devastating and beautiful, The Other Side is one of those rare books that will change you."
Javier Ramirez, City Lit Books
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PLOT- Lacy M. Johnson fell in love with a Spanish professor who was teaching at the college that she was attending. He was charming and handsome at first, but when she moved in with him, the abuse started. After several years of putting up with his erratic behavior and both physical and mental abuse, Johnson left him. She thought that he had left the country, but instead he was waiting and plotting revenge. He kidnapped Lacy and brutally raped her, threatening to kill her. She would have been dead, if not for his mistake of leaving her alone, tied up, giving her enough time to escape. Although she escaped, she is left with scars and he fled the country, making it impossible for her to feel safe.
LIKE - Johnson's story is a powerful force that is impossible to put down. I think the style is what works best. She writes in a finessed stream of consciousness. She floats between flashbacks to her childhood, the abusive relationship, the rape and her life after the rape. She teases out the information about the rape, not divulging the full details until the very end of the story. This may sound sick, but I kept reading, wanting to know exactly what he did to her. It was horrific and upsetting. It was a strong choice to keep this at the end of the story, as it added to the tension.
I also like that we knew early on, that in the end, she was able to marry a nice guy and have kids with him. This sense of a happy ending, made the horrific portions easier to bear. Johnson is raw and honest, but never tries to make the reader pity her. This makes her a compelling protagonist worth rooting for.
DISLIKE- The only very minor negative, is that when Johnson switched between flashbacks, it sometimes took me a few moments to realize that a switch had occurred. Occasionally, the transitions were not as clear as they could be. However, this was only in a handful of sections and usually the floating between timelines worked very well.
RECOMMEND- Yes. A huge yes! The Other Side is a very powerful memoir and Johnson is brave for sharing her experience. I would especially recommend this to anyone who has or is currently in an abusive relationship. It would also be good for younger women who are starting to date, as a cautionary tale for understanding what is unacceptable behavior and where it could lead.
Lacy M. Johnson
The Other Side: A Memoir
Portland, OR: Tin House
Paperback, 978-1935639831 (also available as e-book and audiobook)
232 pages, $15.95
“Just inside the door, they will find a dog collar, construction supplies, and a soundproof room. I have told them what to expect. Meanwhile, waiting alone in the car under the dark shadow of an oak tree I start seeing things: no shadow is just a shadow of an oak tree…When The Detective returns, he finds me knotted into thirds on the floorboard: hardly like a woman at all.”
The Other Side is the National Book Critics Circle Award– and Edgar Award–nominated memoir from Lacy M. Johnson, who was kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped by a former boyfriend in 2000. This is her story of the before, during, and after. Johnson also tackles universal issues women live with: the illusion of power as puberty works its alchemy and men begin to pay attention to girls who are still children, regardless of the new swell of breast and curve of hip; the sense of always being on stage, under constant evaluation; the popularity of Dead Girls in our culture.
The Other Side is not a linear, chronological memoir but written in fits and starts, as if it’s too much to sustain for long. Johnson’s writing is at once removed, as if disassociated, and searingly personal. Instead of names, she capitalizes common nouns that change depending upon the role the person currently performs and it is peculiarly affecting: My Spanish Teacher becomes The Man I Live With becomes The Suspect.
Johnson has much to say about memory and how “even what the mind forgets, the body remembers.” Her use of rhythm and repetition is practically poetic.
“But the mind goes thrashing so wildly. The body lays itself down on a clear plastic sheet, hears but does not listen to the soup of human-like speech boiling in its ears, spilling exactly the length and width of the room. The mind skitters safely out of reach….But the mind goes thrashing. The mind goes thrashing away from the body, which does not move a muscle, does not move an inch from the spot in which it is unraveling, will be unraveling, has been unraveling since.”
Johnson survives and goes on to become a professor, published writer, wife, and mother. She has the help of a husband who refuses to participate in her campaign to annihilate herself. She struggles with motherhood: how to keep kids safe without suffocating them, how to deal with their demands that remind her of The Suspect’s childishly vehement demands, how to open her heart again.
“I’m afraid the story isn’t finished happening. Sometimes I think there is no entirely true story I could tell. Because there are some things I just don’t know, and other things I just can’t say. Which is not a failure of memory but of language.”
Johnson has granted us the privilege of honesty by including every shade of grey. If there is a failure of language in The Other Side I cannot find it.