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Authors: D.J. Palmer

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BOOK: The New Husband
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EPILOGUE

MAGGIE GARRITY, ESSAY FOR THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE ADMISSIONS APPLICATION.

QUESTION:
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

It is easy to judge other people. It takes no effort at all. Sit back, look at their choices, and decide what you would have done. It's as simple as that. But when you're safe inside your home, on your couch, petting your dog, it's easy to overinflate your capabilities. Why not imagine you'd be a superhero. Of course, you (amazing person) would punch and kick your way to safety—whatever the danger. But here's what I've learned after my ordeal, the greatest obstacle I've ever overcome: until you live it, you don't know what you would actually do. What you think you'd do is nothing but a fantasy.

If you google my name, you'll see story after story about what happened to my family and me. It wasn't pleasant. It was the worst time in my life. I nearly died. We all did. Some people judged my father harshly for what had happened. They called him a coward for not finding a way to get a message to me, or even trying to make an escape. They thought the man who had taken him prisoner had brainwashed
him into developing a psychological alliance with his captor, which is known as Stockholm syndrome.

But these people who judged him weren't shackled inside a 512-cubic-foot room for nearly two years. My father did what he had to do to survive.

We all did.

So don't judge.

I wasn't always good at this myself. There was a time before that I judged kids who are different—kids who are super studious, kids who don't look or act “cool,” kids who don't do sports, or any of the “right stuff.” That's a lesson I learned the hard way.

Toward the end of seventh grade and the beginning of eighth, I was the target of a bully and was cast out of my social circle. I found myself alone all the time, walking to classes alone, studying alone, eating lunch alone day after day. And you better believe I was judged. Some thought I deserved taunting and teasing. Some just wondered if there was something wrong with me. But there was one who offered his hand. One day, while sitting in the cafeteria, a boy I once judged and dismissed, a boy who was an outsider himself, asked if he could join me for lunch. I was reluctant at first, but then we started to talk and I found that this boy, a boy I never would have considered before, was smart and funny, generous and kind.

That was Benjamin Odell. He turned out to be my best friend and he's one of the reasons my family is still alive.

We live in a fairly small community and I know that after my father's disappearance, some people had plenty to say about my mother. They said she took up with a man too quickly. They said she put us in harm's way by bringing a dangerous and deranged person into our lives. They judged her without understanding my mother or our situation.

Those who know my mother well know her to be a smart woman who was very protective of her family. This time she just failed to see the danger in front of her, in front of us all. And she wasn't the only
one who failed to see. My brother was also fooled. And all those who judged her … would they have been fooled, as well? Quite likely. This person tricked a lot of people.

For reasons I don't understand, I saw what my mother and my brother could not. From that terrible time, I learned to trust my own instincts and to fight for what I know to be right. And in time, maybe
just
in time, my mother and brother came to the same understanding, and together we did what we had to do to save our lives.

I learned something else from my awful experience. I learned about the woman at the heart of it all, and, no, it's not my mother, even though that's what the stories say. Victim Zero is a woman named Allison Greene. That's her real last name. I won't use her married name because I know she would not want it.

Allison was a battered woman. She was trapped in a horribly abusive relationship. I've read her diary many times. I know her story well. I've also been looking for Allison for years—a lot of us have. I use the internet to try and find her and I guess you would call me an amateur sleuth. I haven't uncovered any leads, but I'm still searching.

Allison was married for about four years and finally, she ran away from her abuser. Nobody has seen her since. At least we hope she ran away. She was pregnant when she disappeared and nobody knows if she escaped or if she had her baby, because her abuser took those secrets to his grave. And who was this abuser? He was the same man who was in our lives, the man whose surface ease and charm hid a murderous soul. Of course, we knew nothing of Allison, or of a baby, or of abuse, when our story started.

This isn't an essay about what happened to Allison Greene. It's about how easy it is to judge people like Allison—women who stay in abusive relationships or return to them. It can be hard to support someone who keeps returning to a dangerous situation. You might think: What are you doing? You know better!

But you're not that person. You're not living it. You're not afraid for
your life. You're not without financial means. You're not hopeful it can be different.

Judging others is easy. It makes us feel superior. But it doesn't help women like Allison, or my father, or my mother, or me, or anyone who is “different.”

It hurts.

So what to do?

It's simple. Don't rush to judgment.

Have humility. Show empathy.

Ask: What can I do to help?

That's the question my mother asked my father on his road to recovery.

How can I help?

Three years ago, my parents renewed their vows. It was a beautiful ceremony, but we took a moment to acknowledge Allison, and all the women and men like her, people trapped in abusive relationships, and we said a prayer for them. My mother made a speech and everyone cried.

I believe we all want the same things out of life. We want to be loved, accepted, to belong to something, or someone, to feel wanted and valued. Sometimes we make poor choices on this journey. Instead of sitting in judgment of those choices, let's help each other get back on the right path.

That's what I've learned from the greatest challenge I've ever faced. That's how it changed me.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The basic premise for this story came to me in that magical way that stories come to writers—via the ether. I wrote a first draft in 2015, and a funny thing happened on the way to publication: the book didn't quite work. So I did what writers sometimes have to do, I moved on, and worked on other books, came up with new ideas, but this story never left me.

In 2018, I returned to the novel, and as I often do, sought input from people whose judgment and opinions I trust. As I considered their different views, I was able to find the story hidden in pages of earlier drafts, and from my imagination, created the fictional world of the Garrity family, Simon Fitch, and Seabury, New Hampshire. The folks in my arena provided guidance and signposts for me to follow along the way and, with their advice, I took what I believed was a good idea and shaped it into something far better. These people deserve my profound gratitude and if you enjoyed the novel, then they deserve yours as well.

So without further ado, I need to thank my mother, Judy Palmer, for her many reads, suggestions, thoughtful edits, and encouragement along the way. My wife, Jessica, listened to every word and was helpful, as always, in clarifying the characters' motives and feelings. Special thanks go to Meg Ruley and Rebecca Scherer, for helping me regain my footing anytime I stumbled with the ideas, the words, or just the
walk along this path. To Jennifer Enderlin, editor and publisher extraordinaire, goes my deepest appreciation for her wisdom, grace, and undeniably great instincts for a good story. Jen, I'm forever grateful to be partnered with you.

Along the way, I got a lot of expert advice on police work from my friend and local law enforcer Sergeant Jonathan Tate, and loads of encouragement from Jane Berkey, who has been instrumental in the Palmer family writing legacy since she became my father's first and only literary agent. Speaking of my father, I'll always thank my dad for encouraging my pursuit of this crazy dream to use my time creatively to tell stories. We all miss you, Pop.

Behind the scenes are the people who make the book happen out in the retail world: Danielle Prielipp, Rachel Diebel, Paul Hochman, the St. Martin's sales team, the marketing and public relations people, Robert Van Kolken, Emily Dyer and the whole crew at Macmillan audio, the team at Jane Rotrosen Agency, all the freelancers, designers, back office folks, and I can go on. Additional thanks goes to my spotters, readers who follow my Facebook page and agreed to read the novel to look for any typos. Thank you, Dara, Joy, Becky, Lynne, Corky, and Kathy. You were of great service.

Writing is a solo endeavor that takes a village to bring to market. But readers are what make the hard work worth all the effort. So thanks for taking this journey with me. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

—D. J. Palmer

New Hampshire, 2019

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

D. J. PALMER
is the author of numerous critically acclaimed suspense novels. A former e-commerce entrepreneur, D. J. Palmer now resides in New Hampshire and is currently at work on a new book. You can sign up for email updates
here
.

 

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BOOK: The New Husband
7.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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