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If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

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In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me. In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me... That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage -- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped. Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing. Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder. Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own -- and her sister's -- victimization with unflinching candor. This beautifully written memoir will move readers from the first to the last page. At once a confession, a call to break the cycle of abuse, and a deeply felt love letter to her baby sister, Amy Lynne Latus, If I Am Missing or Dead is an unforgettable read.


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In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me. In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me... That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage -- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped. Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing. Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder. Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own -- and her sister's -- victimization with unflinching candor. This beautifully written memoir will move readers from the first to the last page. At once a confession, a call to break the cycle of abuse, and a deeply felt love letter to her baby sister, Amy Lynne Latus, If I Am Missing or Dead is an unforgettable read.

30 review for If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Wow. I'm not sure that I've ever come away from a book disliking the author so much since Lance Armstrong. The book jacket reads as if this will be story about Amy Latus. It isn't. I think that Amy appears in this book only to give Janine Latus a reason to write it (perhaps she saw this as her big writing "break"?), because this book is about Janine and Janine only. Any references to Amy deal with Janine's reaction to what happened to Amy and how hard it was for her. I was also absolutely amazed Wow. I'm not sure that I've ever come away from a book disliking the author so much since Lance Armstrong. The book jacket reads as if this will be story about Amy Latus. It isn't. I think that Amy appears in this book only to give Janine Latus a reason to write it (perhaps she saw this as her big writing "break"?), because this book is about Janine and Janine only. Any references to Amy deal with Janine's reaction to what happened to Amy and how hard it was for her. I was also absolutely amazed at the condescending way she spoke about her sister. Janine allowed herself AND HER CHILDREN to live in an awful, abusive relationship for years, but still has room to be critical of her sister and her life choices? Ugh. (I will admit that the writing was good, but the subject matter and tone of the author turned me off so much that it didn't make much difference).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This book was a very quick read for me, I read it cover to cover on a 4 hour flight. The writing is stellar, and the subject matter is very compelling. I disagree with people who chide the author for telling her own story. I always thought that was the point...her story of abuse and her story of her sister's death. I cried many times during this book. Janine's love for others, her sisters, her mother, and other women in her life rang out loud and clear and familiar. Violence against women and fa This book was a very quick read for me, I read it cover to cover on a 4 hour flight. The writing is stellar, and the subject matter is very compelling. I disagree with people who chide the author for telling her own story. I always thought that was the point...her story of abuse and her story of her sister's death. I cried many times during this book. Janine's love for others, her sisters, her mother, and other women in her life rang out loud and clear and familiar. Violence against women and families remains a very real problem in our society. I hope that we will all be empowered to work for change and help people move towards healthier domestic relationships.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Ok, I get that in the beginning Latus is setting up the family's background for enduring and living with violence within their relationships. But it's turning me off. I don't know why just yet. *****Later***** It has been a long, long time since I said "Yuck!" to a book here on Goodreads. What I'm about to say may cause many people to hate me and jump down my throat due to the nature of the memoir, but I'm just giving my honest impression. I believe Janine Latus to be one of the most self-centered, Ok, I get that in the beginning Latus is setting up the family's background for enduring and living with violence within their relationships. But it's turning me off. I don't know why just yet. *****Later***** It has been a long, long time since I said "Yuck!" to a book here on Goodreads. What I'm about to say may cause many people to hate me and jump down my throat due to the nature of the memoir, but I'm just giving my honest impression. I believe Janine Latus to be one of the most self-centered, overtly pathetic "female-as-victim" authors I have ever had the displeasure of reading. I realize that her never-ending sad-girl, victim-on-a-stick routine was an attempt to frame the terrible tragedy of her sister's death, but it just turned me off as a reader. Janine's choice after destructive choice of boyfriends/husband was born from her train-wreck-bordering-on-pedophile father's "antics," but as an author, she didn't pull it off. It left me feeling angry, not at her abusers, but at her. On this 8 and 1/2 hour audio, her sister's story slowly and painfully emerges--it all but mirrors Janine's, except she was killed by her abuser. And when I say slowly and painfully, it's because Latus spent approximately 7 hours of the audio whining about her own situation, and, of course, calling her sister fat over and over again. I don't know if it was Latus's lack of talent to convey the irony of her situation in reference to her sister's, but it really came across as though Latus had no self-awareness -- not even at the end. How is this woman a professional journalist/professor of writing? It's terrible that her sister suffered in such a hideous way, and I really think it's terrible she suffered as well. But Latus's inability to translate leaves me feeling...well...Yuck.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jann

    Even though the basic premise of the account was her sister's death, every element of the book didn't tie into it. Instead, what she did was establish a pattern of abuse that made it more understandable for these two strong, smart, beautiful women to accept a pattern of abuse that is unacceptable for anyone. To be fair, she can't write about what she didn't know or experience herself. We get to know Amy as a family member would know her-- in this case, as a little sister. They speak on the phone Even though the basic premise of the account was her sister's death, every element of the book didn't tie into it. Instead, what she did was establish a pattern of abuse that made it more understandable for these two strong, smart, beautiful women to accept a pattern of abuse that is unacceptable for anyone. To be fair, she can't write about what she didn't know or experience herself. We get to know Amy as a family member would know her-- in this case, as a little sister. They speak on the phone and through email. They visit occasionally, especially when Amy is overcoming cancer. It's a powerful account of how life can render you powerless simply with the passage of time. These women rely on each other, but are also afraid to show weakness and tell someone else what is happening in their lives over years. In the end, Janine is divorced and Amy is dead. There is also a stinging note of injustice here. Janine ends up flat broke and alone, starting over as she has again and again; Amy's admitted murderer ends up with the possibility of parole in twenty years or less. Their Dad, a smarmy creep who started the entire cycle of abuse, ends up remarried. He may be all but dead to his children, only popping up occasionally after he and their mother divorce, but that's really it. He still makes crude and totally inappropriate comments at Amy's funeral and tries to kiss his adult daughters on the lips and never loses his sense of entitlement. There is also a "girl-power" sort of feeling that is hard to explain. Their mother, even in the early 80's when divorce was still not particularly common, stepped up to support her family, left her lecherous husband, and eventually found a relatively happy life, even if only for a while. Janine left her means of sole support, relying only on the fact that she had done it before and she could no longer exist in an emotionally and intellectually crushing environment, nor could she leave that as a legacy for her daughter. The last thing I will remember is this: "In our family we say it always. Even before. Before we knew for certain that any one of us could disappear. We say it because it is who we are. It is what binds us together as a family. For some reason there is comfort in that..." Our lives are precious and we shouldn't waste them caring for those that don't care for us. We should instead focus on making sure those who do care know how we feel in return. Above all, I'm now rooting for this woman I don't know, who lives and exists somewhere with her daughter, and hoping that she found a more happy existence. And I'm hoping that somehow her little sister is at peace. Let's be honest--I'm also hoping that her sister's murderer gets what he deserves.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

    I gave this book a low star rating because the title, and blurb, are misleading. You are led to think that the book is about Amy's murder, but it is really all about the author. Amy's murder doesn't even appear until page 307! Up until that point, we are subjected to listening to the author's thoughts, feelings, and actions, from childhood until the present day ... including her marriage, wherein her husband has been abusive towards her. 2 Stars = Blah. It didn't do anything for me. I gave this book a low star rating because the title, and blurb, are misleading. You are led to think that the book is about Amy's murder, but it is really all about the author. Amy's murder doesn't even appear until page 307! Up until that point, we are subjected to listening to the author's thoughts, feelings, and actions, from childhood until the present day ... including her marriage, wherein her husband has been abusive towards her. 2 Stars = Blah. It didn't do anything for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mystique

    Wow, after reading some of the reviews down there, it's a wonder that Janine Latus doesn't pull every copy of her book off of the shelf and give up on women as friends, in addition to giving up on men. The book is a Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation. There are 3 things here and I think Janine covers them all. She talks about love - her love for her sister, her family, and eventually herself. She talks about murder - the lurking potential for her own, her sister's, and the constant po Wow, after reading some of the reviews down there, it's a wonder that Janine Latus doesn't pull every copy of her book off of the shelf and give up on women as friends, in addition to giving up on men. The book is a Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation. There are 3 things here and I think Janine covers them all. She talks about love - her love for her sister, her family, and eventually herself. She talks about murder - the lurking potential for her own, her sister's, and the constant potential for those around her to be hurt or murdered. She talks of liberation - her own by fleeing, her sister's in death. I'm not sure why so many are so down on her. Yes, she plays the victim. She's both an author and the subject. She must at once be the person who was brave enough to escape, but author enough to help the reader understand why she needed to do so - and for that, she must help you understand how she and her sister came to be the victims that they were for a period of time. As I read the reviews below, I understand over and over why friends of mine have not reported violence, domestic abuse, and sexual assault to friends, relatives, and authorities. I mean, look at how total strangers and loved ones treat each other, even when there is love intermingled with abuse. Not every day is an abuse-fest for people who are abused. There are days of passion, love, affection, self-doubt, and wondering who will love you/your kids. And before you wonder about me - no, I am not a current victim of abuse, but I know those who have been. I have been in the past (very briefly) and I put an immediate stop to it, however; I can completely understand how some people in my life are not in the same postion - whether financially, emotionally, in their maturity, or they just do not yet understand that it isn't going to resolve itself...they need to learn for themselves. It doesn't make them bad people. It doesn't make them stupid, or weak. It makes them different - and thank God for differences. Without differences, we'd be Stepford Wives and who wants that? Can't we all be a little more understanding and compassionate toward each other? This author didn't promise you the gruesome details of her sister's murder. She promised you a story of love, murder, and liberation from her point of view, and I think that's what she delivered. I think that some people must have read this book hoping for gory details and must have been disappointed not to get them. Having said all of that - I didn't love the book. I liked it. It was a quick read and is always hard for me to stomach when I want to reach through a book and say, "Woman...for God's sake! See your own value!" Still, I know that this happens day in and day out and that it doesn't take much for someone to go to a place where they feel "less than" and when someone is there, they don't make the best decisions. Self-preservation is not always a priority when a person is lacking in confidence. My greatest hope is that anyone who reads this book, or any book like it - whether they enjoyed the read, or hated the read - will see the signs in their own abused loved ones and ask the right questions or send on the right resources, before it is too late. You can't force someone to leave if they're not ready, but you can help them be prepared when they are ready. They may never thank you, but you will feel powerful knowing that they'd still be where they are now if they hadn't had someone's support and belief in them, along with the resources (phone numbers, rides, babysitters, shelter, anonymity, hugs, etc.) when they needed them. Finally, this book makes me thank God for my husband. I know what is out there. It also makes me thank God that I like myself enough to know that no husband/boyfriend is better than a bad one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jocelynne Broderick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. gah! What is up with this book? From what I understood, this book is supposed to be about the author's younger sister being murdered. I'm nearly halfway done and she's still just talking about herself, with a few conversations with said sister tossed in. It's almost like she used her sister's murder to write her own memoir. WTH? **Final: Ok, I totally did not like this book. It had such a catchy title, and the jacket blurb was really intriguing. But as I said before, very little of this book had t gah! What is up with this book? From what I understood, this book is supposed to be about the author's younger sister being murdered. I'm nearly halfway done and she's still just talking about herself, with a few conversations with said sister tossed in. It's almost like she used her sister's murder to write her own memoir. WTH? **Final: Ok, I totally did not like this book. It had such a catchy title, and the jacket blurb was really intriguing. But as I said before, very little of this book had to do with the sister's murder. Very little. In fact, I kept reading just out of curiosity to see exactly WHEN the murder would be mentioned. 98% of this book was about the author and her own issues. And yeah, they were crappy issues. She went thru hell in her relationships. But the fact that the book was supposed to be about the sister's murder, I think that should have been the more prominent topic. So anyway, enough of that. If you want to read about the author's struggles with an abusive husband, read this. Don't read it if you want to read about the sister's murder.**

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    I notice some of the reviews here pointing out that this book is about the author rather than her sister. That's definitely true, but I think it's also part of the point of the book. The author was living through a series of abusive relationships while putting on a good face for her family - all the while her younger sister was doing the same. I think the point is the guilt. At the point in her own life when she finally came to terms with needing out, her sister's parallel story took a turn for t I notice some of the reviews here pointing out that this book is about the author rather than her sister. That's definitely true, but I think it's also part of the point of the book. The author was living through a series of abusive relationships while putting on a good face for her family - all the while her younger sister was doing the same. I think the point is the guilt. At the point in her own life when she finally came to terms with needing out, her sister's parallel story took a turn for the worse. How can someone expect her to write about the details of what was going on with her sister when the whole point is that no one knew? But by offering us a window into her own abused past, we can understand what happened to her sister.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    Wow. This book will make you decide to never, ever, ever affiliate yourself with any male ever again. It's one of the most depressing books I've ever read. It starts off with the basic Catholic girl victimization--lecherous dad, pervy friends' dads, constant refrain that they are bad and slutty and tempt men, who can't help themselves, moving into the obligatory rape in early adulthood. And things don't get better from there. It's horrifying to read how the intelligent, witty, educated author gets Wow. This book will make you decide to never, ever, ever affiliate yourself with any male ever again. It's one of the most depressing books I've ever read. It starts off with the basic Catholic girl victimization--lecherous dad, pervy friends' dads, constant refrain that they are bad and slutty and tempt men, who can't help themselves, moving into the obligatory rape in early adulthood. And things don't get better from there. It's horrifying to read how the intelligent, witty, educated author gets beaten to a pulp by her boyfriend on a ski trip, or how the man she turns to turns out to later be abusive himself--after he's her husband. You want to believe this could only happen to dumb women, or poor women, or women with no options, even though we all know this isn't true. Her successful, handsome doctor husband manipulates and abuses her, convincing her to get breast implants, pushing her to dress sexually at all times, and turning all this into signs of how passionate he is for her. It's gross, it's objectifying, and it's awful to read how she tried to justify it while looking down at other women who weren't "liberated." And her sister Amy's life proves that things do not always turn out well--it's not always ok in the end, everyone doesn't always find someone who will love them. She gets out of an abusive marriage and goes years without any male attention. She goes back to grad school and ends up falling for a clearly opportunistic guy who lives off of her, goes out with other women, and won't have sex with her. And then he kills her. There is nothing happy here, no redeeming ending that shows that the human spirit can rise above. Nothing good ever happens to her, and then she's dead. It's frustrating to read her journals--of COURSE he doesn't love you, you want to scream. NO, you SHOULDN'T wait for him to grow up! DON'T buy him a $36,000 truck! It seems incomprehensible, and it's easy to write her off as desperate and pathetic. And yet, why wouldn't she be? Life never gave her any indication that she deserved better, and she certainly never got anything better. The author finally leaves her husband, just before Amy is killed, and she clearly hopes for better things, but this isn't one of those "I left my husband and now everything is better" things. It's just a sad, sad tale of how fucked up people's lives can be, even when they seem perfect on the outside.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    I was also confused as to why this book seemed to spend so little time with Amy. I've decided that the author couldn't write what she didn't know (what was going on in Amy's secretive relationship - Amy wasn't volunteering any information - maybe because she was embarrassed or ashamed - why write the letter in her desk if she didn't know that she couldn't trust her heart)- so Janine wrote about what she did know. - why SHE stayed in abusive, dangerous relationships - we live what we know. I have I was also confused as to why this book seemed to spend so little time with Amy. I've decided that the author couldn't write what she didn't know (what was going on in Amy's secretive relationship - Amy wasn't volunteering any information - maybe because she was embarrassed or ashamed - why write the letter in her desk if she didn't know that she couldn't trust her heart)- so Janine wrote about what she did know. - why SHE stayed in abusive, dangerous relationships - we live what we know. I have never had to find the courage or strength to leave a toxic relationship (I think - I don't think they are easy to recognize from the inside). Abusive people are most successful when they isolate their victims. Horribly enough - what happened to Amy could have happened to Janine a couple different times in the past. Amy didn't get the chance to recognize and break the cycle.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Constantine

    I'm giving this a high rating because, while I can see why other reviewers are critical of the limited presence of Amy in the book and hence felt misled, I also have to say, as a woman who was in a similar relationship for the better part of my twenties, the book Latus produced could have very well been written by myself. Everything from the mental soundtrack - including the disdain for other women in bad relationships - to the endless repetitive conversations about how you are cheating with eve I'm giving this a high rating because, while I can see why other reviewers are critical of the limited presence of Amy in the book and hence felt misled, I also have to say, as a woman who was in a similar relationship for the better part of my twenties, the book Latus produced could have very well been written by myself. Everything from the mental soundtrack - including the disdain for other women in bad relationships - to the endless repetitive conversations about how you are cheating with every man who so much as looks at you to the weird stalkerish moves like installing keystroke recording software on your computer...it's all there in painstakingly detail. I cringed while reading this book so many times. I would put it down and tell myself that I was not going to finish it because it was like ripping open wounds that had just begun to heal, but then I would pick it back up again within a matter of hours. I cried at the ending of the book. That never happens. If you ever find yourself listening to a story of a woman who stayed in an abusive relationship and asking yourself, "Why in the name of all that is holy did she not leave?" then you need to read this book. If you ever thought of women in abusive relationships with disdain for their weaknesses and their dependencies, then you need to read this book. Also, if you have ever been in an abusive relationship, I recommend this as well. I found it to be healing and inspiring, and it is motivating me to get involved in anti-DV activism.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I am shocked and saddened by the tone of this book! Is this a book about the author's missing/murdered sister (as the title implies) or is it about the self-absorbed author? The title is very compelling and as a fan of true crime shows like Forensic Files, 48 Hours Mystery, etc. I thought this book would be interesting. I listened to it on audio and I must say that the author's sister--the true victim here--was done a huge disservice. This is the most self-indulgent piece of work I have ever pic I am shocked and saddened by the tone of this book! Is this a book about the author's missing/murdered sister (as the title implies) or is it about the self-absorbed author? The title is very compelling and as a fan of true crime shows like Forensic Files, 48 Hours Mystery, etc. I thought this book would be interesting. I listened to it on audio and I must say that the author's sister--the true victim here--was done a huge disservice. This is the most self-indulgent piece of work I have ever picked up. I did keep reading, wanting to know what happened to the author's sister, craving more details of her life and her situation leading up to her going missing. Unfortunately, these details were eclipsed by the author's own bouts of histrionics and lust for the spotlight--at the expense of her murdered sister. I was completely disgusted by the author's preoccupation of how much she weighed and what kinds of clothes she should wear. Really? Are you kidding me? Ironically, this book could have been so much more interesting and compassionate if written by someone else. I can't imagine an author's ego being so big as to exploit her sister's memory for her own personal gain, under the guise of bringing light to abuse. (Maybe because I have a very close relationship with my own sister.) This book smacked of selfishness and the author's own personal need to be in the spotlight. So many details were left out it was frustrating. As a reader you were constantly asking "what happened" and "why". Perhaps Janine Latus did not have those answers, as she didn't seem to have a close relationship to her sister, in my opinion. Perhaps one of her sister's coworkers would have been better equipped to write this book. But then, what would have been Janine Latus' role in it? (Exactly!) If you strip away the content that focuses on Latus herself, this would have been an extremely short book. I get the impression that the author really didn't know enough about her sister or her sister's life to write a book about that! Now, don't get me wrong. I have been in toxic relationships and I do understand that emotional abuse is still abuse. If this was the message that the author was trying to send by illustrating through her own marriage, then in my estimation, she failed miserably. I was left feeling frustrated, cheated, and had no sympathy for this author--who has garnered fame and publicity as a result of the murder of her own sister. The tone of the book did not leave me with the impression that it was written for the purpose of educating or illuminating the dangers of domestic abuse or any purpose other than to indulge the author's ego. This book completely turned me off. The resources and website mentioned at the end seemed merely gratuitous, almost an afterthought. (And probably at the suggestion of the author's editor!)

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Groves

    This account of a sister's murder is not the type of book that it seems. It is better. Janine Latus's simple story rends the heart. Her sister Amy, a lonely widower in her thirties, lets an ex-con into her life, allows him to borrow over $60,000, and gives him a roof to sleep under. One day, she ends up missing, and sometime later, her body is found, buried in a construction site, buried and wrapped in a tarp. But this book is nor written in the way that a disinterested journalist would write it. This account of a sister's murder is not the type of book that it seems. It is better. Janine Latus's simple story rends the heart. Her sister Amy, a lonely widower in her thirties, lets an ex-con into her life, allows him to borrow over $60,000, and gives him a roof to sleep under. One day, she ends up missing, and sometime later, her body is found, buried in a construction site, buried and wrapped in a tarp. But this book is nor written in the way that a disinterested journalist would write it. She has taken one thread in her family story and followed it from childhood to Amy's murder. That thread is the idea that women's only purpose is for men's sexual excitement, that domestic violence is men's right, and that women are somehow, in all things, inferior. Latus presents a convincing case that she and Amy grew up with that mindset, inculcated by her father and passed on to her daughters in their adult years. The men that they chose were physically and mentally abusive. The author's husband coerced her into getting breast implants and wearing sexy clothes. Amy chose a ne'er-do-well who rarely worked, continually got fired from jobs, and died in his mid thirties from complications due to alcoholism. The book is enlightening but difficult to read. Judging from some of the other reviews, it enrages a certain percentage of readers. This is partly because Latus is writing about the evils of chauvinistic acts that many men consider not to be chauvinistic, such as encouraging their partners to wear lingerie, making decisions because they earn more money, and having sex when their partner may not particularly want to. The author protests her father's full-mouth kisses and sexual comments. These are arguable points to many men. However, seen in their entirety, Latus makes an excellent case for feminism. Latus is not without fault in her life. She confesses to infidelities, for example. However, life is a tangled web, and nobody gets out of it with a clean slate. The book is a quick read, which is a tribute to Latus's simple, direct style and excellent organizational skills. You won't get to the murder until late in the book, but by then, you're hooked, and will probably read the last few chapters obsessively, in one sitting. And when you finally put it down, you will never forget this unique take on a murder and a life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    I started reading this in the bookstore the night we picked up the last Harry Potter book. It is VERY good, but I would like to finish it. Hopefully I can either finish it in the bookstore (a la Aubrey) or just buy it, read it and pass it on!!! :) More when I am finished! UPDATE: Finished the book. Finished it 2 hours while sitting in Indigo. I felt like my eyes were on FIRE! This was a good book, but very very sad. Very thought provoking as well. But over-all, very sad. I think I am still digesting I started reading this in the bookstore the night we picked up the last Harry Potter book. It is VERY good, but I would like to finish it. Hopefully I can either finish it in the bookstore (a la Aubrey) or just buy it, read it and pass it on!!! :) More when I am finished! UPDATE: Finished the book. Finished it 2 hours while sitting in Indigo. I felt like my eyes were on FIRE! This was a good book, but very very sad. Very thought provoking as well. But over-all, very sad. I think I am still digesting what I read in this book. This is the story of Janine (the author) and really a story of her sister Amy. And their growing up years and the years that follow. Which are filled with bad men and abuse. Its the story of how Janine finally got the courage to leave the man who abused and belittled her continually (YOU will not believe some of the stories. But as a person who has been abused, I understood why she stayed in the midst of it....and unless you have been abused, you will never understand why those who are being abused stay.) and how her sister Amy wasn't so lucky. I admire Janine. It was a tough story to tell. It must have been so hard to sit at the computer everyday and relieve what both she and Amy and really all those around them went through. To relive how this man made her feel. And how she became so wrapped up in trying to live, that she didn't see what was happening with Amy until it was to late. I admire her for facing those demons and telling a story that needed to be told. And I am glad that I read it. Even though 2 days later I am still really sad and reflective about WHAT I read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Kronk

    Several reviews seem to criticize this book for focusing more on the author's story than the story of the sister who is murdered. It should be understood that this is not a true crime novel. The author would not be able to fully tell her sister's story. She didn't know it. One of the strong points that this book makes is how isolating domestic violence can be. The author feels trapped in her relationship because her husband kept her from her family. Amy, the sister, is unable to tell the truth o Several reviews seem to criticize this book for focusing more on the author's story than the story of the sister who is murdered. It should be understood that this is not a true crime novel. The author would not be able to fully tell her sister's story. She didn't know it. One of the strong points that this book makes is how isolating domestic violence can be. The author feels trapped in her relationship because her husband kept her from her family. Amy, the sister, is unable to tell the truth of her relationship due to her own shame and self-esteem issues as well as the danger that she faces from the man who does, eventually, kill her. This book explores violence in a way that really disturbed me. I think that was intentional. The author has a lecherous father (there is such a air of sexual abuser about him every time he enters the picture,) is molested as a child and is raped as a young woman. Violence or the threat of violence is so prevelent in this book, it almost becomes banal. And that banality makes a deep and scary point. We cannot become so accustomed to violence against women that we stop seeing it or stop caring about it and trying to end it. This book isn't what I thought I would be but it was still a great read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    No truth in advertising here. This book is the old bait and switcheroo. Cover tells the reader it is about the murder of Amy Latus. It is, but only as an aside to the autobiography of the author. Which by the way is not bad, it's just that it is so ordinary. It is a classic, I had a crappy childhood, I made bad choices because of it, men are all crappy, I woke up and got out and oh yeah, my sister didn't. Latus shows contempt for her sister throughout the novel. The author tells us of how hard s No truth in advertising here. This book is the old bait and switcheroo. Cover tells the reader it is about the murder of Amy Latus. It is, but only as an aside to the autobiography of the author. Which by the way is not bad, it's just that it is so ordinary. It is a classic, I had a crappy childhood, I made bad choices because of it, men are all crappy, I woke up and got out and oh yeah, my sister didn't. Latus shows contempt for her sister throughout the novel. The author tells us of how hard she worked to be a success while her sister just went along. She tells us of her quest for physical perfection with breast implants and constant weight and diet monitoring while her sister is fat and tries Weight Watchers. She marries a doctor and her sister marries a bum. She wears sexy clothes on her perfect body and her sister makes tents that are the only thing that fit her. Phuuulease. What a bunch self-indulgent garbage. Not a good read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I had a hard time giving this book 4 stars ("really liked it"), although it deserves them. "Missing or Dead" was incredibly disturbing, rather than "likeable". Even more so because it is a true story. I find it difficult to understand women who choose to remain in abusive and controlling situations, and yet I recognized little bits of myself, my family and past relationships within this brutally honest and heart-wrenching memoir. Latus writes like the journalist that she is. Her words are concis I had a hard time giving this book 4 stars ("really liked it"), although it deserves them. "Missing or Dead" was incredibly disturbing, rather than "likeable". Even more so because it is a true story. I find it difficult to understand women who choose to remain in abusive and controlling situations, and yet I recognized little bits of myself, my family and past relationships within this brutally honest and heart-wrenching memoir. Latus writes like the journalist that she is. Her words are concise and straighforward -- no frills, no fluff, no wasted words. It's a quick read, but not an easy one. I was sick to my stomach throughout most of the book... But reading these women's experiences made me so grateful for my wonderful father and the good men my sisters and I married.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maddie Takemori

    My overall feelings for this book fluctuated constantly throughout my experience, from picking up the cover to read a summary, all the way to the final pages of the book. The summary and description provide you with a teaser of the tradgedy, yet it gives away your sense of curiosity to read further when she *ahem,* "mentions," that Amy is murdered at the end. What reason do you have to finish the book if the featured conflict has already been given to you? I read further, out of curiosity, and My overall feelings for this book fluctuated constantly throughout my experience, from picking up the cover to read a summary, all the way to the final pages of the book. The summary and description provide you with a teaser of the tradgedy, yet it gives away your sense of curiosity to read further when she *ahem,* "mentions," that Amy is murdered at the end. What reason do you have to finish the book if the featured conflict has already been given to you? I read further, out of curiosity, and found that, furstratingly, a majority of the book didn't feature Amy at all, but her sister and author, Janine Latus. If the plot of Amy's eventual death is given away, why is most of the book about Janine? Although her stories of abuse are vivid and provide a lot of insight into her life, you find yourself craving something actually about the book's main plot. I forced Janine's first cases of abuse down my throat, and at first, this was out of her control, yet as the book progressed, I was tempted to label her as either dumb or extremely unfortunate for this "recurring theme." The end provided somewhat of a cushion for my slight disappointment, but it still didn't satisfy my crave for more details on Amy Latus. As a general summary, Janine Latus's If I am Missing or Dead tells the story of Janine, and her sister Amy's seperate love lives, a combination of complicated romances including sexual harrasment, one-night stands, and marriage and divorce. The book, set in Latus's time of being, starts from a little girl at home, to a young adult starting out on her own, all the way up until post-Amy's 2002 death. This is the most major event in the story, and one of the few events about her in the course of the book. When Janine is notified of Amy's disappearence, it assumes a much higher priority than her pending divorce with her abusive husband, as she's devastated at her loss. Amy Latus is eventually discovered to have been murdered by her boyfriend, a cheating felon with a drinking problem who Janine never trusted in the first place. His name is Ron Ball, and after a little digging, police discover his long record of crime, leading Janine into a frenzy, calling the sick bastard Amy's definite murderer. The scene that left the biggest imprint on me actually has little or nothing to do with the murder, but with Janine Latus's marriage with her husband, Kurt, a well-paid man who makes the majority of their family's income. This scene's tension begins with a confrontation to Janine about a sunburn by two unfamiliar men, in turn making her laugh just as her husband is returning from a restaurant. Kurt, known for being extremely jealous, storms off. Tired of the repetitive fits, Janine tells him, "It's over." The initial anger takes several hours to wear off, but eventually Janine relents, allowing Kurt to return to the hotel room they're staying at on vacation. This was memorable because in thought, I believed that she'd legitimately leave Kurt, yet it was one of my greatest moments of disappointment because it seemed to leave the book dull and repetitive. This story, although drawn out and monotonous, does have lessons to be taught. Throughout this tale, I learned to further appreciate who I have in my life, and their roles in shaping me to be who I am. Cheesy, I know, but honestly I can't imagine life without my sibling I've had my entire life, who influenced me so greatly. Furthermore, I learned to live in the moment, as *knock on wood*, I could be dead tomorrow just like Amy, and I will have been cheated of a life's full potential to make you enjoy it. However, the most glaring lesson I picked up from this book is to make a decision about love. Sure, it's confusing, and people lie and cheat right under your nose, but ultimately, you must decide whether a relationship is worth the stress and agitation that accompany it. Of course, there will never be a perfect relationship, but one with as little conflict as possible would definitely lift some stress off of one's shoulders. My recommendation for this book has wavered as well, especially for it's graphic content, not for the faint of heart. The book is full of vivid descriptions of abuse such as rape, and the just as dramatic thoughts of Janine Latus swimming around on the pages. Her choice to reveal the murder before you even begin to read leaves most slightly disappointed, yet it sparks some interest for those interested in mystery. However, it strikes curiosity and confusion to find that the book is about Janine, not Amy, and I know people that would simply protest this fact, leaving the book unread. With an obvious plot that you could clearly see the end of, it's simply not for the thrill seeker. If you're into a graphic or vivid story with a side-plot of murder, this could be the book of your dreams, as long as you don't have a weak stomach. Overall, the book is enjoyable and gives description enough to keep you entertained, however monotonous and drawn out it can seem. The lessons it teaches leave imprints on your heart and mind, showing "You don't know what you got 'til it's gone" and to attempt to live a fulfilling life will make you happier in the end. Finally, it's worth reading to remind you how fortunate you are to have a "more normal" family life than this unfortunate soul has opened us up to.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christina Culbertson

    I personally disregard all of the negative comments about this book! I find it quite apalling their could be so much dislike about this book when I myself thought it was a saddened, haunting, beautifully written with heartfelt emotions that drew me in. The fact that the sisters dealt with abusive men their whole lives an how close they were, yet amy and janine declined in telling the whole truth about their relationships, the fact they kept the abuse secret until janine never spoke to Amy again I personally disregard all of the negative comments about this book! I find it quite apalling their could be so much dislike about this book when I myself thought it was a saddened, haunting, beautifully written with heartfelt emotions that drew me in. The fact that the sisters dealt with abusive men their whole lives an how close they were, yet amy and janine declined in telling the whole truth about their relationships, the fact they kept the abuse secret until janine never spoke to Amy again because she was murdered by an inconsiderate prick who used the hell out of her, who refused to have sex with her, who drained her bank accounts and had a girlfriend on the side while holding her every night wondering when he was gonna kill her. What saddens me the most about this book that literally brought tears to my eyes was the fact of how good of a person amy was. How her whole life she always settled for less, how all she ever wanted was for someone to love her for her, she never had an experience with a decent man, how she never got to experience what it felt like to be in love. Its so sad she was innocently taken advantage of because she longed for that love so bad that she would believe anything she hears just to make herself believe she was loved. I really really enjoyed this book and I give props to janine for writing such a moving story. I will continue to read her books and praise her. Im glad she left kurt I found myself at times screaming in my head at her for staying. Janine you were a good sister and you did the right thing and you was there as much as you could be considering you had your own demons to fight at home 5 stars I loved this book and fuck you to the people who didnt like it!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Santos

    Okay, I bought this book yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. I loved it and hated it. either way, I was compelled to read it. It made me cry several times. I'm not sure that it will be as interesting to everybody else, but some things just resonated for me. A quick synopsis: the author's little sister was murdered by her boyfriend. Part of the healing process for the author was to search back into her own past and examine her own abusive relationships. It was well-written and a bit Okay, I bought this book yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. I loved it and hated it. either way, I was compelled to read it. It made me cry several times. I'm not sure that it will be as interesting to everybody else, but some things just resonated for me. A quick synopsis: the author's little sister was murdered by her boyfriend. Part of the healing process for the author was to search back into her own past and examine her own abusive relationships. It was well-written and a bit excrutiating to read because it does a great job of describing how her husband manipulated and controlled her. He was very paranoid and had some major anger issues. IT was a good book, the only complaint is that I wish I could've gotten more insight on her sister and how sucha tragedy occurred.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I listened to this book on audiotape, and while I did enjoy it, I feel like it wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, maybe it's because it was abridged, but it didn't seem so much about the author's sister as the author herself, whose life (and romantic relationships) are covered down to each little detail. Still, a compelling story. I listened to this book on audiotape, and while I did enjoy it, I feel like it wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, maybe it's because it was abridged, but it didn't seem so much about the author's sister as the author herself, whose life (and romantic relationships) are covered down to each little detail. Still, a compelling story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kourtney

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. If you are looking for a "true crime" novel then please put this book back on your shelf. This is not a story of murder and catching the criminal and how the family moved on. This is a true tale of a sister who, in coming to terms with her sisters murder, reflects back on her own life to uncover the patterns of abuse she experienced and how it caused her to miss the clues to Amy's untimely demise. Janine lets us into her life starting from the abuse from her father to boyfriends, strangers and h If you are looking for a "true crime" novel then please put this book back on your shelf. This is not a story of murder and catching the criminal and how the family moved on. This is a true tale of a sister who, in coming to terms with her sisters murder, reflects back on her own life to uncover the patterns of abuse she experienced and how it caused her to miss the clues to Amy's untimely demise. Janine lets us into her life starting from the abuse from her father to boyfriends, strangers and her husband. This is surprising given that her whole life she has hid most of it from the outside world. She shows us how domestic abuse pervades time and time again in ugly patterns, and how it was also in her little sister, Amy, whether Janine saw it that way at the time or not. Some parts were hard for me to read, while others I couldn't put the book down wanting to know more. I have read reviews on here of others complaining about how Janine barely talked about Amy's murder, or about how she was obsessed with weight and the way she looked - but that's not what this story was about. Like the book jacket states, it is the story of how 2 successful women end up in abusive relationships. The weight issue was a part of the abuse "if I looked better he will love me more" mentality. I can only hope that people can look beyond that to the true heart of the story as one woman's tale in the life of domestic violence. I can only hope that Janine can find the true happiness within and wish her and her family well.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    I can only think of two other books I've read that gave me such a visceral reaction against the author or the story: Anne Lamotte's Operating Instructions and Laura Munson's This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. I don't have anything nice to say about those books, but they didn't leave me burning to write up negative reviews of them, either. Not so for Janine Latus' memoir. I found the story repulsive and the author a disgrace--to women, to mothers, and to writers of the self-examined life. At t I can only think of two other books I've read that gave me such a visceral reaction against the author or the story: Anne Lamotte's Operating Instructions and Laura Munson's This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. I don't have anything nice to say about those books, but they didn't leave me burning to write up negative reviews of them, either. Not so for Janine Latus' memoir. I found the story repulsive and the author a disgrace--to women, to mothers, and to writers of the self-examined life. At the end of the book, she says she wrote the book to bring the problems of abused women out into the public domain, so that other victims won't believe they are alone, blah blah blah. What BS. As if what kept Latus in a sick relationship for more than a decade was believing that she was alone, or not knowing how to find help? If she's a victim, I'm a salt shaker. Making a conscious decision to stay with a pathologically controlling and abusive husband because you find the threat level exciting, and you like the comfy lifestyle provided by his income, and you fear having to explain your breast augmentation to the next guy, and the next guy, and the next one.... That's not victimhood, it's bartering. Step down off your soap box. Ugh!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The title and tagline for this book promise much more than it delivers. I started reading it thinking that it would tell the story of the author's sister, her demise and the aftermath...but instead found chapter after chapter about the author's own life and various affairs and encounters with abusive men. Her sister Amy seemed like an afterthought...mentioned in passing every once in awhile. I also disliked the way she thought of and spoke about her sister...criticizing her weight and appearance The title and tagline for this book promise much more than it delivers. I started reading it thinking that it would tell the story of the author's sister, her demise and the aftermath...but instead found chapter after chapter about the author's own life and various affairs and encounters with abusive men. Her sister Amy seemed like an afterthought...mentioned in passing every once in awhile. I also disliked the way she thought of and spoke about her sister...criticizing her weight and appearance, and later putting up with (I'm not quite sure I believe this, but...) outrageously offensive and inappropriate comments at Amy's funeral by none other than their own father! I started wondering partway through if everything contained in this story is even true...it gets harder and harder to believe as the abuse goes on, and the years pass. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was my impression it got to be so over the top. A huge disappointment, wasn't worth publishing for maybe a few pages worth about Amy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    This book was an intense look at domestic abuse. The author chronicles her life and her youngest sister, Amy's life through their abusive relationships and finally to the author's divorce and Amy's death. I couldn't help but wonder why, when it was all-too-apparent that the father was abusive, would the family continue to protect him. The author stresses her family's close-knit bonds, but from my impressions, the family culture was to buck-up and put on a front, which may have attributed to Amy' This book was an intense look at domestic abuse. The author chronicles her life and her youngest sister, Amy's life through their abusive relationships and finally to the author's divorce and Amy's death. I couldn't help but wonder why, when it was all-too-apparent that the father was abusive, would the family continue to protect him. The author stresses her family's close-knit bonds, but from my impressions, the family culture was to buck-up and put on a front, which may have attributed to Amy's lack of communication, and had she felt more comfortable confiding what was really going on in her relationship, might have prevented her death. But hindsight is always 20/20. This was a well-written book, although at points painful to read, but an essential story to tell.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karen Bendo

    What a misleading jacket cover! What I thought I was buying to read was a story about a sister's love and her search for justice for her murdered sister. Instead, whilst well written, what I read was a memoir of an educated but extremely stupid woman and her pathetic lack of self confidence. Delusional. Delusional sisters. I'm lacking sympathy as they flit from one ridiculous relationship to another. These sisters weren't even close! They didn't confide in one another, they simply fed each other What a misleading jacket cover! What I thought I was buying to read was a story about a sister's love and her search for justice for her murdered sister. Instead, whilst well written, what I read was a memoir of an educated but extremely stupid woman and her pathetic lack of self confidence. Delusional. Delusional sisters. I'm lacking sympathy as they flit from one ridiculous relationship to another. These sisters weren't even close! They didn't confide in one another, they simply fed each other their weaknesses. I was frustrated as I read it and after reading Kay Schubach's pathetic tale, I now feel like I need to take my shoe off and hit myself at the back of my head with it for reading yet another stupid tale of an educated but stupid woman! Ripped off! Would like my money back!

  27. 5 out of 5

    CrabbyPatty

    Okay, the central story here is solid and well-written, but I resent like HELL that she frames her story with that of her younger sister Amy's murder. As the story develops, we really get a sense of their shared childhood (although Janine was older than Amy by nine years, I believe) with a working mother stressed for caring for 7 kids and a creepy father who overly sexualizes almost every encounter with his teenage daughters. Janine grew up believing that sex was the only currency she had, and sh Okay, the central story here is solid and well-written, but I resent like HELL that she frames her story with that of her younger sister Amy's murder. As the story develops, we really get a sense of their shared childhood (although Janine was older than Amy by nine years, I believe) with a working mother stressed for caring for 7 kids and a creepy father who overly sexualizes almost every encounter with his teenage daughters. Janine grew up believing that sex was the only currency she had, and she had a relationship with one doctor who beats her up and broke her nose and ribs during a mountain ski trip. When she returns home, she asks her friend Kurt (who is also a doctor) for help, and shortly thereafter they begin an affair. When Kurt leaves his wife (their youngest kid is only 6 months old), they marry and begin a twisted relationship where Kurt overly sexualizes his wife by encouraging her to get huge breast implants, wear short short skirts, totter around on high heels all the while getting jealous and believing she is cheating on him. It's not physical abuse, but the mental abuse is overwhelming and Janine is on edge every moment of the day. In the midst of her relationship, we learn bits and pieces of Amy's situation but it is very much in the background, as it is filtered through Janine's dysfunctional relationship. Janine's beautiful trusting sister Amy was murdered by a man who had served time in prison, treated her like crap, and killed her without a second thought. BUT we get so few details about Amy's life and even less about the crime. Latus draws readers in by teasing Amy's story, and then doesn't spend the time to even show us how Amy's dysfunctional relationship probably grew from the same seeds. She glosses over the tragedy, and that is what I resent about Latus' storytelling here. I ended up very conflicted about this book. Janine judges her sister and wonders why she stayed in such a bad relationship and would allow herself to be subjugated. Umm, hello??????

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I could not wait to read this book. The title suggests that this book is going to be about the author's sister who was murdered. It's not. Only the last few chapters are about her missing sister and her murder. And they aren't even very long chapters. The bulk of this book is about the author, Janine, and her life. From growing up with a creepy dad, to rape, to her abusive husband and boyfriends. Her sister is only mentioned in passing, like "today I talked to Amy on the phone" and only once in I could not wait to read this book. The title suggests that this book is going to be about the author's sister who was murdered. It's not. Only the last few chapters are about her missing sister and her murder. And they aren't even very long chapters. The bulk of this book is about the author, Janine, and her life. From growing up with a creepy dad, to rape, to her abusive husband and boyfriends. Her sister is only mentioned in passing, like "today I talked to Amy on the phone" and only once in a while. I did not like this book. I was angry that the author used her sister's murder almost as a way to get herself published. There really should have been a different title for this book. Janine was so wrapped up in her own life that she didn't even seem like she cared much about her sister. I don't recall one part in the book where she talks about calling her just because. I feel like Janine wanted us to feel sorry for her about her abuse and horrible marriage but yet I couldn't. I just didn't like her and I could not connect with her. She did nothing to better her situation and just took whatever was thrown at her. I just didn't like it. That was not what I signed up for when I bought this book. I thought it was going to be about a sister's love for her sister and wanting justice. Not a pity party.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I picked up this book because the cover art spoke to me. Watch out this true story will make you cry. What the author went through in her abusive relationships will stay with you a long time.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kim Miller-Davis

    One of the most common questions people ask when hearing about a battered woman is: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” This is an excellent book for helping people to understand that there is no simple answer. Janine Latus uses the death of her sister Amy at the hands of an abusive boyfriend as the starting point for her exploration of the psychology behind relationship violence. Latus accomplishes this by examining her own experiences with mentally, physically, and sexually abusive men. She gives a One of the most common questions people ask when hearing about a battered woman is: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” This is an excellent book for helping people to understand that there is no simple answer. Janine Latus uses the death of her sister Amy at the hands of an abusive boyfriend as the starting point for her exploration of the psychology behind relationship violence. Latus accomplishes this by examining her own experiences with mentally, physically, and sexually abusive men. She gives a searingly honest, detailed portrayal of the ways in which her gender identity got twisted during her adolescent years (due to a series of events which include a demanding, sexually inappropriate father). Latus then shows how this damaged self-concept affects her early career choices and affects her interactions with men. She is courageous in her descriptions of her marriage, one which seemed perfect on the outside, but was, nightmarish and destructive on the inside. At the same time that she is relating her own story. Latus describes her relationship with Amy, allowing us to know her from the perspective of an older sister. We meet Amy as a young child, sweet and adoring, but constantly subjected to the verbal blows and sexual innuendos of their father. We watch her grown into a anxious adolescent, who is plagued with self-doubts, and troubled by a young marriage marked by alcoholism and abuse. Finally, we know her as a woman, who, though still suffering from weight problems and self-esteem issues, seems to have weathered the hardest times and is on her way to success. Of course, since Latus doesn't live in the same town (or even the same state) as her sister, she cannot know all the details of her daily life. She only knows what Amy tells her and what she observes when she sees her at family get-togethers or visits. Latus doesn't try to come up with theories about exactly what happened or why it happened. She just tells us what she knows, leaving it up to the reader to develop understanding and compassion. And most of that understanding comes from reading Latus's personal story, because we can only surmise that her own issues paralleled those of her sister's. Many other reviewers have been very critical of this, as if somehow, Latus was supposed to detail exactly what happened to Amy. The whole point is that no one knows what happens on the inside of ANY relationship, especially one that is dysfunctional and abusive. Relationship violence doesn't look like a big brawl in the streets where the cops can easily spot the perpetrators and arrest them. Relationship abuse is hidden, secret, insidious. Throughout the memoir, Latus's writes in present tense, making it sound as if she is talking to a friend or writing in a journal. This enables the reader a greater level of understanding. Although she never comes right out and gives a list, "Here's why I stayed in this relationship. #1, #2, #3 etc...", we come away with the feeling that we "get it"--that we might have even made the same choices. As someone who has worked in the domestic violence field (and as a survivor myself), I found this book to be an incredibly honest portrayal of abusive relationships. More importantly, I think it goes a long way toward eliminating the need for anyone to ever ask the question "Why Doesn't She Just Leave?" again.

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