*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: The much maligned and misjudged, Emery Pearson, sits facing prison therapist, Dr Susan James, in order to make a last ditch attempt to win her freedom after the chance of happiness with the only man she ever loved is cruelly cut short, in this roller-coaster tale of passion told through revealing flashbacks. Contains adult themes.
We begin Missing Him with the main character, Emery, talking to a psychiatrist in prison. Evidently Emery has committed a crime, but what she has done is concealed from the reader from the start, as we slip back and forth between Emery’s session with Dr Susan and her past actions and relationships that led her to the current point.
There is a very distinctive writing style at work here. At first I thought that the author was misusing words, but as I read on I realised that L Penn uses the English language like Jack uses Emery’s body: hard, rough and with a dedicated passion. She kneads, twists and pummels words into doing jobs they were never meant to and expressing what she has in her head without the filter (or structure) of conventional language choices. The result is fascinatingly unique: some of the time it makes the prose difficult to follow but at other times it has an almost poetic effect of creating a visual or emphasis that ‘normal’ language would struggle to convey. At all times it creates a distinctive voice and style that grabs the story by the neck and throws it up against the reader’s walls of expectation.
About that: the content here is shocking. ‘Contains adult themes’ barely covers the amount of sexual violence here, even though most of it is consensual. Despite Jack assuring us, and Emery, that men and women all instinctively love her, it appears that they express their fondness in shades of black and blue on her flesh. Friends, family, lovers and strangers punch, strangle and toss her around, which she reacts to with a mixture of indifference, acceptance, rage and lust. Also she certainly gives as good, or as bad, as she gets. For me, the pervading sex and violence was an insight into Emery’s psyche more than mere words could give… it almost became another language embedded throughout the text; a language which the characters used to express affection and care as well as anger and arousal. It was a strange subversion of human emotional mores which actually made sense as the context of Emery’s situation unrolls and shows her inability to understand and express emotions in a normal, open way.
This is described as a ‘true love story’ and I would agree with that. I would cite comparisons to Bonnie and Clyde, Micky and Mallory, The Joker and Harley Quinn but that would be unfair to Jack and Emery. Whilst they exhibit a similar insular, hyper-intimate passion that infringes on mentally unhealthy territory, there is no crime spree here… they mainly destroy themselves and each other. And as previously noted, their relationship is consensual – deeply so – and who can sit in judgement on what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors? Certainly not I! I do not doubt the love described here at all, however unfamiliar the format of delivery may be to me.
So, a difficult story to read but a fascinating one. A very different, intimate, brutal love story, but a love story nonetheless.
“Bastard, you were too rough,” I lay cross, trying a degree best to wash my bits properly.
He disagrees, “Me!” jabbing my ribs, so I hit his balls and he drops to one knee.
Over breakfast I make out I’m not sorry so he apologises first. Children making up, he kisses my head then I take and squeeze his hand expressing sympathies which in return encourages him to fondly grab me round the throat and pretend to choke me.
– L Penn, Missing Him
Missing Him is available on Amazon right now!