Tell Me What I Am felt very, very real and heartfelt. It’s excellently written: the characters are vividly portrayed, their actions ring true and the dialogue is spot on. It is well paced and structured.
The main characters are Nessa and her niece, Ruby. Nessa is the older sister of Deena, who at 17 is sucked into an abusive relationship with an older man, Lucas. Her family are very worried about her, intensely mistrustful of Lucas, but – yes, this is a typical abusive relationship scenario – he is manipulative and estranges Deena from her family until he has total power over her. When their daughter is a toddler, and Deena tries to leave, she suddenly disappears.
Nessa is convinced that Lucas has done something, but lives in hope that her sister will be found someday and that she and her daughter will come back.
Meanwhile, Lucas is given custody of Ruby. He brings her to live with his mother, and raises her in his mother’s house, first homeschooling her until forced to allow her to go to school.
The novel follows Ruby and Nessa over the next 15 years. It is an excellent portrayal of domestic violence, and of coercive control even without violence. It highlights how difficult it is for families to help their loved ones who are subjected to this abuse, and how little the law supports them.
Thanks to the publisher, author and Netgalley for the ARC. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
Tell Me What I Am is published by Faber & Faber. Pub Date: 1 Jun 2023
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