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Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Minta Forever" Strong Statement on Abuse

Title: Minta Forever
Author: Jean Campion
ISBN-10: 1932738371
ISBN-13: 978-1932738377
Pages: 192
Price $15.95 Amazon
Publisher Western Reflections Publishing Company
951 N. Highway 149, Lake City, Colorado 81235
P.O. Box 1149, Lake City, Colorado 81235
1-970-944-0110, 1-800-993-4490 (orders) 1-970-944-0273 (fax)

Reviewed by Connie Gotsch, author of A Mouth Full of Shell and Snap Me a Future and featured in The Complete Writer's Journal

Some authors go for the sleaze when they write on the theme of domestic abuse, dwelling on physical and sexual aspects until the reader wonders if the book’s a novel or a nursing text. At the end of the story, the heroine puts all the trauma behind her and prepares to head for the altar with some handsome man who rescues her. Her abuser either languishes permanently in jail, or lies under a grave stone.

In real life, abusers destroy their victims mentally as well as physically, and the victims often have no easy way out of the situation. If they do get rid of the abuser, they can’t find peace. The abuser might leave a victim alone, but there’s always the fear that he might come back, because abusers do not go to jail forever. Sometimes they don’t go at all, and just find another woman to batter

Southern Colorado author, Jean Campion knows this, and she recreates the real life abuse scenario in her novel Minta Forever, published by Western Reflections Publishing Company.

Pushed by well-meaning parents, Ella Jane Morgan Skaggs’ finds herself married to the abusive but wealthy farmer, Edmond. He does all the psychological things abusers do, including separating her from family and friends, and berating her at every chance. He brings her to his home town to live, where she knows no one. Worse, when he appears in public with her, he treats her well, so anyone she would ask for help would not believe she needs it.

When Ella decides to escape, she faces the dilemma of all abused women: where to go? Finally aided by a cousin, she gets a teaching job in a one-room school in a small Colorado town. Now the cousin and her husband are in danger of Edmond, as are the people in the town where Ella has taken refuge, under the new name of Minta Mayfield.

From page one of Minta Forever, Campion sets up a cat-and-mouse game between the husband and wife, highlighting the psychological abuse, and suggesting the physical and sexual aspects just enough for the reader to grasp.

Once escaped, Ella/Minta, spends a lot of time wondering in her journal if Edmond will find her, and what that will mean to her new community/ Any real life abused woman faces the same questions.

Around the abuse theme, Campion presents a good picture of how one-room schools operated in Colorado in the early 1920s. She grew up in a family of educators and heard tales of one-room schools and the people who taught in them. The novel began as a research project on one-room schools in La Plata County, Colorado, and the author found plenty of descriptive material to make Ella/Minta’s daily activities and surroundings believable. At no time, however, does she wallow in education history for its own sake. Every single historical mention relates to plot, action, character, or theme of the story.

Of course as Ella/Minta worries about Edmond’s return, the reader does, too, and Campion cleverly creates several heart-stopping moments when Edmond might be lurking in the shadows; and an explosive scene when he finally is.

People in town react as one might expect. Some support Ella/Minta. Some want her fired as a bad example to the students. Campion explores the ideas of forgiveness as supporters outvote the non-supporters.

A final twist in the plot puts Ella/Minta in the dilemma of real life abuse victims. Is she safe from Edmond, or is she not? What decisions should she make about what she does next, based on not knowing for sure if she’s safe?

Forever Minta raises provocative questions, and without being overly graphic, reminds everybody how hideous domestic abuse and violence is. The story also points out that there are no easy choices for an abused woman. She has make the best one with the information she has and hope it’s right.

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