Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
Manipulated Lives is a fascinating collection of five powerful and thought provoking character led stories which delve into the lives and minds of those well-developed characters.
Each story is longer than what I’d normally define as a short story. I’d say they are more short novellas, so they were long enough for me to get properly into and become emotionally involved in what was happening to the characters and care about them.
While each story is very different, the similarities are the focus on human behaviour and manipulative people. The stories cover emotional subjects, bullies, manipulators, Stockholm syndrome, and the ways people deal with different situations and personal challenges in their lives. These stories felt very real. I have to keep reminding myself that these were fictional stories and not cases I read about in a Psychology book.
The stories were emotional, dark, tense, unnerving, thought provoking and things weren’t always what they seemed.
I especially loved Tess in Tess and Tattoos. That for me was the most emotional story. The Spell was the one I found to be the most tense and unnerving. My teenage self related to Holly in Runaway Girl, as I’ve always loved reading and have been great at saving money since I was a child. The Narcissist felt very dark and claustrophobic. Lisa in My Perfect Child had me so frustrated by her behaviour as a mother, I found it hard to read parts of it and was almost screaming at my Kindle to tell her to do things differently.
Manipulated Lives was a fascinating collection of stories, and despite reading numerous books since finishing this one, I find myself still occasionally thinking about the characters throughout the day. This is definitely one I highly recommend if you like stories that focus on the darker side of human behaviour.
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