I was given Manipulated Lives by the author, as a member of #RBRT and on the understanding that I gave an honest review.
I gave Manipulated Lives 4* out of 5*
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 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, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is 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
This is an absorbing compilation of short stories that give a thought-provoking insight to human behaviour. Manipulators, those people who will do anything, try any tactic, to exploit those who they are involved with, who they sometimes purport to love, are all around. Manipulated Lives is a cleverly written book showing the diversity of this behaviour.
As I read each one I found myself becoming both angry at the manipulator and aggravated by the character who was being manipulated; why couldn’t the latter see what was happening? Afterwards I realised that for me to become so absorbed proved the skillfulness of H.E Leuschel’s writing. The normality of the situations that the characters are set in lend to the credibility of every story; it’s so easy to relate to them; to sit back and think’ yes, I’ve met someone like that’. Or even, ‘have I ever acted in any way like that?’ Scary!
Every character is rounded and believable. There are strengths and weaknesses revealed in them all; they are multi layered, true to all human vulnerability. My initial (yet fleeting) sympathy for who proved to be the antagonist in The Narcissist is a prime example. Even incapacitated, helpless in his sick bed, there is no remorse, no enlightenment to his behaviour. Yet in another story, My Perfect Child, I was uneasy from the very start.
H.E Leuschel’s writing style is compact and evenly paced. The inner dialogue is excellent, revealing so much of human nature that I sometimes had to sit back to think about a scene, a situation, an observation.
To trust in another leaves anyone open to vulnerability, to being controlled. To be the recipient of that trust could, and often does, result in the ability to control. It’s a disturbing thought and one that is highlighted in Manipulated Lives.
To my mind there isn’t a story in this anthology that will leave the reader unmoved. It truly is a compelling read.
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