Book Review: When the Stars Go Dark

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain was an absolutely beautiful book. First of all, the title immediately draws you in. Second, the writing in this book was stunning. The writing was poetic and I kept going back and rereading lines just to appreciate how beautiful the writing was.

This book tells the story of Anna Hart who is a missing persons detective. A terrible tragedy sends Anna back to her hometown so she can try to process and grieve. Shortly after arriving to her hometown she discovers there is a fifteen year old girl missing and Anna quickly joins in on the case. While investigating this crime it starts to remind Anna of one of her friends who went missing years before when they were both fifteen.

I loved this book. I thought the plot was good, Anna was a sympathetic character, plus this book actually dove deeper and used actual missing persons cases and trauma theory as well. The book even touched on what makes some people more susceptible to predators than others. That approach could have easily turned into victim blaming, but it never did, it was done tactfully and I was able to relate to it in some ways and also learn from it as well.

To me, a book isn’t complete unless I am able to take something away from it. Whether that be a lesson, or an understanding of others more, etc. I was able to take a lot from this book and even able to understand my own traumas more.

I highly recommend this book. It was well-written, fast paced, there were a lot of good characters, and it kept me guessing the whole time. In the end I was kind of able to figure it out, but there were still plot twists that I did not see coming and I always appreciate an extra surprise element. Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars. This is a book that I am going to carry with me for a while and I cannot recommend it enough.

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New Beginnings

The moon never apologizes for how much-or how little light she decides to cast upon the night; so I will learn from her and try to stop apologizing for the way I show up in my life; it was a Tuesday afternoon and I was crying; I was not crying from anything bad-for what felt like the first time in forever- I was crying from laughing so hard; we both started laughing and at some point it developed into tears and now neither of us can breathe in the best way; it is in these moments I realize the strongest things always make it through; there are so many days where the sadness camps itself inside of my heart and I cannot get her to go away; but the happiness is determined to push through; and when I really need her to show up- somehow she always does; there are bad things- but I am working on not letting it dictate the good; my happiness is all there is to separate him from me; he may have taken many things from me the night he took my body; but I will work on not letting him take it all away; I am standing in the middle of my new apartment- the one I worked hard for- the one so many people told me I would not be able to get- and I think of all of the people who have told me I would never be successful; I envision all of the nights where giving up seemed like the best option- sometimes the only option- and right now I am so glad I never gave up; I am learning there will always be people who will doubt your ability; there will always be people who want more from you than you are able to give; but in the end the right people will always show up; the right people will always be happy for you and support every decision you make; it is a Tuesday afternoon and the world does not feel like it is closing in around me; it is a Tuesday afternoon and I will accept the happiness and try to not diminish it; the moon never apologizes for how she shows up; and from now on- I will try to not either.

Part Three

I live in a body that was never really mine; I count backwards from ten- try to find the number that will make all of this mean something; try to find the number that will convince me that all of this is okay; my assault is a story told in three parts; part one- your love is unconditional; you come to save me from the wreckage- you promise me you love me; you promise me you will not hurt me; I believe every word you say- even when I know better; part two- your anger begins to explode into small moments throughout the day; your dislike for me slowly becoming the loudest thing in the room; you tell me you know what is best for me; tell me you are helping me; you tell me I am always wrong- yet you still tell me that you love me; still promise me you will never hurt me; I still believe every word you say; part three- you steal my body from me- claim it as your own; when I feel you inside of me- I have to pretend to just not; I spend hours in the shower scrubbing away your touch; call a rape crisis hotline- hang up on the first ring; call again and again- only to just keep hanging up; I write down all of the reasons it is my fault; I ice the bruises- wash all of the wounds you left behind; try to call the hotline just one more time- but the fear and shame are just too persistent; the walls collapse around me- I see your face every time I close my eyes; there is a forgetfulness that takes over the memories- a wall that closes around my mind; I wish to forget every detail- yet I am fighting to remember any of the details; I call the hotline one last time- when the person on the other end reminds me I am not alone- I want to tell her that that is the problem- instead I just hang up; I check all of the locks three times; I look for the moon through my window- make sure she can see inside; I promise the moon I will make it to the morning; I follow the moon on my drive every morning; I thank her for getting me through another night; before I start my day- I count backwards from ten- try to find the number that will make all of this mean something; try to find the number that will convince me that all of this is okay- learn to accept- that maybe I will never be okay.

Wounded Love

We live with trust printed on the back of our hearts; drowning in all of your words hoping to believe the truth lies somewhere in them; your words left wounds; the same way your love does; it is not that I do not believe in your love; it is more that I stopped believing you when you told me you loved me; I think about your family often; I wonder if they miss you; or at least miss who you once were; but will never be again; I try to scrub myself clean of the memories of you; try to make all of the parts of me you have touched disappear; when the light comes shining in through my window just right- it almost does look like you love me; I do not know why I want you to love me; it would be much easier if you did not; it would be much easier if I would not let myself drown in all of the lies you cover me in; it is not that it always feels so impossible to fully love you; it is more that it feels like you want me to love you more than anything; yet you never want to reciprocate any of this love; I drag your love onto the grave site that sits on my heart; I worship the ghosts of the love that you were at one time able to provide; I wish over and over that you will one day turn back into the person you once were; I still drown in all of your words while I tirelessly search for the truth; believing it has to be hidden somewhere in there; no matter how far it is hidden- there are so many days where I am still determined to find it; determined to turn the wounds your love leaves back into anything else; I still look for the light to shine through just right- to prove the person you once were- still exists somewhere; even if it is hard to find.

Broken Sadness

This sadness is the gospel I worship every night; thoughts of ending it all race through my mind- more often than I would ever care to admit; I know too many people believe I choose this; there are so many days where I question whether or not I am making it all up; I worry what if I do like the suffering; maybe all of this suffering is what makes me interesting; I wonder what I would be without this sadness; what would happen if the trauma were to disappear; there are different things that make us whole; so many parts that make up who we are; what are you supposed to do when the parts of you that scare everyone else- make up most of who you are; I do not know who I would be without the skeletons of my trauma following me into every room I enter; the brokenness builds a home out of me; making me whole in a way others will never understand; when you have been broken for so long- sometimes it feels as if there is no other way too be; I am saying all of this to tell you- I am sorry if all of this is too much for you; I am sorry if my sadness makes you uncomfortable; I am working on building homes out of the happy moments; but it will take some time; the body has to build a tolerance to everything; and for now- my body is trying to figure out how to hold happiness.

My Ocean of Secrets

Sometimes I feel the more I think about it the more control he has over me; if I pretend it never happened- maybe I can convince myself it never actually happened; no matter what the scars on my soul tell me; no matter how many nightmares I have; if you keep hiding from the truth- you might be able to convince yourself of anything; I convince myself that something else happened that night- anything else happened that night; except convincing yourself never really works- but what is the harm in pretending; what is the harm in ripping the truth out of yourself and throwing it into the ocean; hoping with each wave the truth of what happened will drown a little bit more; my truths cover the entire ocean floor now; when you swim in the ocean- be careful not to cut yourself on the shards of my secrets.

Timmy

When I was 8 years old every girl in my class had a crush on a boy named Timmy; of course I said I did too- because the way they talked about him made it seem like he placed all the stars in the night sky; made it seem like if I did not like him- there was something wrong with me; I stared at him everyday of second grade trying to figure out why I could not see it; trying to figure out why I could not feel what every other girl so easily felt; that was the year I realized I was different; people do not always like different; from that year on I have buried myself so far into the closet there are days where sometimes I have to make sure that the door is still able to open; I have hidden this secret in the dark house of my bones and have let the shame of it nearly kill me; there are so many days I promise myself I will take this secret to the grave with me; from that year on I have become a girl who is made up of apologies; this closet keeps getting darker and darker; I cannot quite decide if I am more terrified of the dark; or the guilt and shame that always seem to come with it.

Dreams and Rituals

I am lying in my bed and surrounding myself with as many pillows as I possibly can- I am trying to make sure if he shows up in my dreams tonight- I will be prepared; my dog sleeps by my head most nights- and I like to think it is because she knows I can use all of the protection I can get; every night I carry out a ritual of made up safety; a ritual that is slowly turning into obsessions that I think may never really help- but I may never be able to stop; I will sleep under as many blankets as it takes to stop feeling so exposed; I will hide from him; I will hide from him until hiding no longer feels safe- and when it no longer feels safe I am not quite sure what I will do; the day he took my body from me- he also took my home; the day he took my body- he took everything; most nights I read until my eyes are burning- because the thought of going to sleep is just too scary; I do not want to see his face ever again if I do not have to; I wake one night to the sound of a scream and my dog frantically licking my face- it takes me a minute to realize that scream came out of me; I clutch the stuffed animal everyone makes fun of me for still sleeping with- as I try to slow my breath; my dog lays on my chest- we have been here too many times before- she knows exactly what to do; the more days that pass- the more I realize everything he has taken from me; the anger sits somewhere inside of me; each night I will add another step to the ritual; each night I will check the lock one more time than I did the night before; each night I will hate him a little bit more for making me do all of this; each night I will hope that carrying out this ritual does not make me more of a victim; I will hope that when I see him in my dreams tonight- this time I will finally learn how to run.

Dark Days

It was the first real day of summer; there was not a cloud in the sky and everything seemed to be going just right; when you asked me how I could still be sad on days like this- I knew my depression would always be a burden to you- my anxiety an unwanted guest; I do not know how to explain to you that so many days are dark days for me; they consume me whole as they tell me I am not important; which is to say- I do not always know why I am here; one day you ask me why I cannot just go back to the way I used to be; the problem is- I do not quite know who that is anymore; on my darkest days- the rain forests move into my heart; all the thunder cracks in my chest- as forest fires erupt in my stomach; all of the water in the world takes over my own body- drowning me in my own thoughts; on these days- my own bones turn against me- the unwanted voices do not stop; on my dark days- I am not asking you to fix me; I do not need you to tell me not to worry or to not be sad; I do not need you to play god- because that is too much to ask of the both of us; we both know this depression and anxiety are here to stay- even if you cannot accept that; when the dark days come- and I promise you they are going to come- all I need is for you to sit with me- to please just accept my sadness for what it is; to offer me a life raft- but please, do not be mad when I do not always want to take it; to ask me where does the quiet live; and how long will it take to get us there.

When Light Fades To Dark

Every morning the bright yellow ball caresses the earth- demanding everyone to be aware of its existence; always rising in the east and setting in the west- its presence will forever be counted on; but- with light- always follows darkness; when the light begins to fade- the darkness will shortly follow; this darkness creeps in ever so slightly; until- all in an instant there is nothing but blackness surrounding you; but- when the light fades to dark- there is one thing you can always count on; the magnificent ball of light will always rise again; and the beauty it beholds will take everyone’s breath away all over again.

Wilted Soul

She felt like a flower wilted and alone- the way he undressed her with a single look; she felt like a flower- one that had been picked and left to die- he knew all of her insecurities and made sure to make them visible to every eye; she felt like a flower- but not the kind that everyone loves- he made her unlovable- yet she lusted after him even so; she felt like a flower- but not like a rose whose beauty is always alluring- he has taken all of her beauty as he touches her without care; she felt like a flower- whose petals have been ripped off one by one- he has taken every piece of her; including her soul; she felt like a flower- yet not so much anymore- he has taken the garden inside of her; leaving her vacant- with nothing but shattered petals- surrounding her whole.

Hopeful

From the beginning
they told me I was too quiet

which is why when I was assaulted
I blamed myself,

I thought I must have somehow
consented to what he did to me

I thought my silence must have meant yes;

trying to heal feels way too much
like being punished for what he did,

I have thought about leaving forever,
but I never want to give him the satisfaction

he has taken so much from me already,

when the night gets lonely

and the world seems no bigger
than the space in my mind

I write over and over and over again
that I will be okay;

when the world feels like it is
shattering around me-

I promise myself I will not shatter with it;

on the days when all I can think about
are the details of what he did

I remind myself I am not the broken one;

and when this body feels like it no longer belongs to me-

I remember that this body never belonged to him.

Oceans

Last week I started to write my suicide note

so far all it says is:
‘I’m sorry’

I can’t bear to tell you about the pain
that has consumed me,

how my body is no longer mine

how it hasn’t been for a while now.

I picked out the date for my death,

don’t worry,
it’s not for a few more months

my heart feels like a weight
I have never been trained to carry

I’m sorry that I never told you
who I really am

my body has become a casket;
I bury my secrets inside of me

hoping that the ghost
is not too noticeable.

The other day you asked me
why my smile looks so different,

why my eyes look so tired all the time,

I didn’t know how to answer.

Loneliness has become my closest friend-

isolation my only defense mechanism,

I stopped going to counseling
after I brought up the assault
and sexual abuse

because suddenly I was too exposed,
the pain became too raw-
everything too real.

I thought my counselor would hate me
just as much as I hate myself.

Guilt and shame crush my soul everyday,
they grind my bones to dust

my skin is a canvas for pain;

I draw the hurt I feel inside
onto my body hoping you understand

how deep this sadness runs;

sadness is an indescribable pain-

all five oceans live in my chest,

they drown me in their waves

as they throw me into their shore;

I cry for help-

but no sound ever comes out.