Resilient Ruin: A memoir of hopes dashed and reclaimed by Laura McHale Holland

Occasionally, I accept review requests from individuals.  Very occasionally, I accept review requests for memoirs.  Rarely, these days, I accept review requests from abuse survivors.  When Laura McHale Holland approached me to read and then review her book, I had to stop and think about it.  What tipped me into yes was the use of the word ‘reclaimed’ in the title of the book.  I found ‘reclaimed’ heartening.

While I found the book difficult to read at times, I’m glad I read it.  And I’m delighted that Laura has reclaimed her life.

Resilient Ruin by Laura McHale Holland

‘Mommy will let me in eventually; the neighbours already peeking from curtained windows, would talk if she didn’t.’

Laura McHale Holland was orphaned as a child.  She and her sisters lived with their stepmother.  As the youngest, Laura lived there longest.  Sadly, Laura’s stepmother was abusive.  When Laura was fourteen, she rebelled.  This is Laura McHale Holland’s account of her life as a teenager, of her life from 1963 to 1972.

What makes Laura’s story inspiring is that she survived a series of poor choices, poor judgement and bad luck to reclaim her life.  How hard life is for teenagers who are forced by circumstance to try to function as adults.  How hard it is to try to develop good judgment when role models have failed and in the absence of healthy levels of self-esteem. There were times when I was reading when I wondered how Laura survived, and moved beyond survival in order to thrive.

I didn’t find this an easy book to read.  Abuse experiences (whether the reader has similar experiences or not) are never comfortable reading.  I think that the value of such accounts (for other readers) is appreciating that others have suffered (you are not alone), and have survived (it is possible to move into a life beyond abuse).  Along the way, Laura suffered a number of quite overwhelmingly sad experiences.  It is a credit to her that she has managed to survive, although not unscathed, and to establish a far better life for herself.

Some of us, old enough to remember the years between 1963 and 1972, will remember some of the pop hits on the radio at the time.  But Laura’s story is not just for those of us old enough to remember the hits of the time, or the ‘drugs, sex and rock n’ roll era’.  It’s a reminder that we all need effective parenting, that we all need hope.

Note: My thanks to the author for providing me with a free electronic copy of her book for review purposes.  Thank you, Laura, for having the courage to share your story.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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