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Three Rules Paperback – September 24, 2013
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This is the first novel I’ve ever read with a theme of child sexual abuse, obviously it is a difficult subject. My initial concerns were allayed when I read in the author’s note that the book did not contain graphic scenes depicting sexual abuse. The author handled the issue with the utmost subtlety and discretion, and in doing so, only ramped up the intensity of the drama.
All of the characters are well-developed, but it is Hope who commands our full attention. She studies herself in a family photo, she’s wearing a pretty pink dress, everything is perfect, but her eyes give her away. “I recognize the hopelessness in those pale blue eyes. They’re blank. I’m lost, and no one knows I’m missing.” Plagued by fears, guilt and nightmares, Hope masquerades as a “normal” person with her parents and friends. But there are cracks in the wall she has meticulously constructed to hide her terrible secret. On the stairs she straightens a photo on the wall, then straightens it again until she’s sure it’s even with the rest of them. A few minutes later she is smoothing “all the wrinkles” out of the coverlet on her bed. She is consumed by the abuse she has suffered, and these small acts belie her well-controlled but inwardly careening emotions. I have never fully understood why abuse victims remain quiet but I do after reading this book.
I enjoyed the story of Hope and Joey’s relationship and mysteries that swirl around them.
Three Rules is a terrific read, but it is sobering to think that the brilliant depiction of Hope’s character and trauma was at least partially based on the author’s own experience with abuse. I greatly admire Marie Drake for her courage and advocacy in writing this book.
I present to you "Three Rules."
Meet author Marie Drake, whose ink explodes onto the paper a riveting story about Hope Wellman, a young woman who looks back on a life strewn with heartache. We see right away that this is a troubled soul. The power of the novel is apparent from the beginning, as Hope watches her Uncle Lucas Wellman, who has met an untimely death, being lowered into the ground. She can feel no sympathy for this man. Why? Drake makes it all too clear what has occurred between these two characters. For now, she will hold her secret safe.
We see flashbacks, moments in time, the regressed mind of an eight-year-old girl. "I didn't even feel like a human being worthy of love; I belonged to him. I wanted to crawl under a rock and hope no one noticed me." Early on Drake interposes Hope's past with the present. It is no wonder that she celebrates inwardly at Lucas Wellman's death.
We see a cameo, where Drake reveals Hope's mother's naivete, or, worse, her denial.
We see Joey Bishop, a childhood friend. Drake reveals the passionate innocence of childhood romanticism. Immediately after her first kiss, Hope is met, on the porch, by her Uncle Lucas, who bores his evil stare in her direction.
We move back to the present and see the gathering after the funeral. Drake reveals Karen, Joey's sister, who confides in Hope that "Lucas Wellman is - was the father" of her unborn child.
The plot thickens.
We are brought to a will, where Lucas leaves the family in dismay because he's left everything to charity. Hope learns that no provisions have been made for Karen and the unborn child.
We find ourselves out of the harbor and into the Sound, where Hope's mother confines in her: telling Hope who her real father was and why he is not a part of her life. There are many secrets in this family, we learn.
But we see something in the dark, lurking, waiting to strike our emotional chords.
Is Lucas still alive? It seems to be. Or did Joey possibly kill him? A cufflink with the initials L.W. has surfaced.
At this point nobody knows what to think, which is where I find a well-crafted plot.
Hope, naturally, become paranoid. She thinks somebody is watching her.
Not only this, we learn that Lucas has hurt other girls, one being Jesse Matthews.
But is there something else going on?
"The tension in the house all that time was jealousy over my mother and Lucas, not because my parents had any idea what Lucas was doing to me."
Here I find the complexity growing in crescendo: a Bolero's tempo.
Frederick Bishop enters stage right. He announces that Karen has disappeared. I am led to believe that Lucas may indeed be alive: her knight in shining armor having taken her, or rescued her.
Finally, midway through, we are given release: Hope admits to Joey about her Uncle Lucas.
Does Joey already know this?
Or is this Detective Reynolds, who has kept a watchful eye the whole while, privy to what goes on? Or is it the step-father, Luther, who runs this ring?
Trust me, the red herring, having been dried in the sun by Drake, runs ripe along the trail. Yet, have we been blind-sided by red herring, and, I ask myself, has Drake simply done a magnificent job at foreshadowing?
This was a great book!