Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Split

Originally published on June 3, 2012.

I finished Split by new author Swati Avasthi this morning and all I can say is.... wow. This book was incredibly thought-provoking, sad, beautiful, and filled with redeeming hope. Once I started it, I could hardly put it down, even to sleep. I highly recommend it to anyone, either teen or adult.

The story starts at 16-year-old Jace Witherspoon arrives at his brother's apartment in New Mexico. Jace hasn't seen Christian for 5 long years and has no idea what he will encounter on the other side of that apartment door. The boys' father, a prestigious Chicago judge, has been violently beating the boys' mother for as long as they can remember. When Christian was 11, he started intervening, defending his mother and bringing the beatings on himself instead of her. After being hospitalized several times, he leaves home at age 16. He gets help from a friend's family, puts himself through college, changes his name, and basically disappears in order to protect himself. Jace has not heard from Christian since then.

Now Jace is 16, and his father has been beating him for the past 5 years, since Christian left. One night, after he has a fight with his girlfriend, Jace comes home and finds his mother recovering from yet another beating. Something inside him snaps, and he retaliates against his dad. His dad beats him to unconsciousness, and when he awakens, kicks him out of the house with nothing more than the clothes on his back. At the last moment, his mother slips him an envelope--the one letter she has secretly received from Christian--and urges Jace to find shelter with his brother.

After driving cross-country for 19 hours, Jace finds Christian. It has been five years since they've seen each other, and neither is willing to dip into their shared memories to rebuild their past relationship. They settle on a "no questions" policy, and Christian allows Jace to stay with him. Jace slowly begins to rebuild his life, enrolling at a new school, getting a job, and above all, hiding from their father. Jace worries incessantly about their mother, urging her via email to leave their father and come to live with he and Christian. And nothing in his new life can help him to forget that terrible last night with Lauren in Chicago....

This story is a poignant tale of familial abuse. Both Christian and Jace try hard to pick up their pieces of their shattered lives and start anew after escaping from their father, but how can they escape the horrors of what they've been through? Neither understands why their mother is unwilling to leave their father, even though they know that the frequent beatings will eventually result in her death. They struggle with how to become men: good men, not carrying around the anger that they see in their father. They wonder how to break the cycle of abuse, how to start new, and how to come to trust and forgive each other.

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