Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman

A macabrey, a grotesquery, a series of short stories about damaged women finding somewhat empowerment through criminal acts, this book is a bit challenging to get through. Stories often express our fantasies like dreams, however, unlike dreams, we are pilots who can steer the dream in any direction we want. Of course, this brings on the claim of artificial and manufactured plots which seem fake and obvious. One male fantasy, like the last book is going from poverty to riches and then getting a whole bunch of women. This is female fantasy. A women getting trapped in a precarious situation, and in reality, she would just suffer silently, but in her imagination, she triumphs through wit, ingenuity, determination, in this case, crime and luck. But you do hear about abused women winding up killing their abuser, but I often think in return, well, why didn’t you just leave the guy? Bullies are cowards, and they make big threats, but when you call them out, rarely do they follow through. Being bullied by my sister, your imagination is their weapon. What was the worst that could happen if I stood up to her? Would she beat me to a pulp? Would she break my bones and make me bleed? Would she kill me? It was always safer to never try and find out. I also wondered about running away, but again, what would be the worst outcome? I would starve to death. An even worse bully would hurt me. The police would find me and return me home only to suffer greater abuse. I wondered, what would happen if I called some government agency or told my teacher? What if they couldn’t help? Were they going to live with me to protect me? It would be just my version against theirs and then they would leave, and I would get all the wrath. But I was a kid. I have less sympathy for grown adults who stay in abusive relationships. I can understand Jaycee Dugard who was kidnapped at 11 and brainwashed and how she then decided to voluntarily stay with her abductor, perhaps several years into the 18-year ordeal. I can’t understand why a grown woman would stay with an abuser. I understand how they may have low self-esteem, they may have been abused as a child, but leaving, especially when you have a child, is better than staying. But it also happens with guys with their bosses. Many bosses are bullies, and guys will endure it in exchange for a paycheck. I guess, what I mean is that I can understand it but I can’t sympathize or agree with the logic.

Some of the heroines in these short stories are not victims but self-victimizers and also outright criminals. I usually don’t like to read this sort of stuff. You don’t realize it, but it leaves residue, a sticky film of goo in your conscience. There are so many people who love TV crime thrillers with all the gory murder scenes, and while it may give you some sort of weird, perhaps sick adrenaline jolt to contrast a rather mundane, boring life, there are consequences. You start to become a little paranoid and mistrustful of others, and you don’t realize that it is others that make your life interesting and worth living. You start to feel that the world is full of horrible, scary, violent thugs. It’s like being a police officer. People think it’s as glamorous as on TV or the movies, but police rarely interact with trendy, sophisticated, wealthy killers. They often dwell in the ditches of the most poverty-stricken, foulest, most diseased, uneducated, stench of society (besides when they make all the drug busts and DUI arrests on middle-class and working class people). I once wanted to be a police officer, but then you find out the reality of their jobs, and after 20, 25 years, their minds, their souls are damaged. You err by conflation. If you are surrounded by good people, you naturally assume the world is full of them. When you are surrounded by bad people, you naturally assume the world is full of them.

I go out of my way to avoid crime thrillers, but there just seemed something different about this book, perhaps a dose of feminism or something, but as it turns out, it’s just short crime thrillers about a lot of really messed up women who are the furthest thing from empowered. Instead of rising above, they dive deep down further. Instead of rising above men, they mimic their violent, aggressive, entitled behavior and mentality. These are not feminist stories but rather shams, pathetic, sad examples of how women succumb to bad men and then succumb to the bad masculine psyche. The book also includes stories of men behaving badly too. I had to skim the second half. I was planning on just not reading the second half, but I’m very disinclined to not finish a book. It’s too easy to make up excuses not to finish a book, and occasionally, when you punch through a book all the way to the end it does get better. This book never got any better and is going straight to the recycling bin.

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