Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review: The Pain Behind the Portrait by Jenell Hollett

Mike, Dayne, and their two kids are a California success story. The family portrait hanging over their fireplace proves it. But the portrait is a lie—a façade hiding the truth of a deteriorating marriage where words are weapons and loneliness has replaced intimacy.

Mike is an attorney who resolved never to be like his father, a man who used words to control and belittle his wife and children. Unfortunately Mike married Dayne, a volatile and unpredictable woman who aims her tantrums at him with depressing regularity. Confused and frustrated, Mike retreats into his work.

When he least expects it, Mike meets Brooke. As Mike fights his feelings for Brooke, he begins to realize he's trapped in an abusive marriage with few options for resolution or escape. And all the while, the family portrait casts its illusion of happiness over the home—happiness Mike doubts he'll ever experience.

The follow-up novel to Jenell Hollett's What I Learned from Men, The Pain Behind The Portrait is an enlightening, ultimately uplifting tale that vividly shows the damage words can inflict on a marriage.

Paperback, 228 pages
Published April 15th 2015 
Kristine's Thoughts:
**I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. **

I struggled with this book a little bit. It was described in the synopsis as "an enlightening, ultimately uplifting tale" yet I found it pretty depressing and many parts of it irritated me. Perhaps this would be a good book for a book club because I can see many a discussion over its content.

Mike and Dayne definitely had a dysfunctional relationship but I found that the story didn't spend enough time on their interactions together and more on Mike reflecting back. Basically there would be a couple of sentences where Dayne would verbally attack Mike and then chapter after chapter of him reflecting or doing other things. The actual amount of time that they were together in the book was extremely small. It made the impact of her abuse less powerful than what I think the author was aiming for when she was barely in the story. I feel like more interactions between the couple would have provided a more powerful message to the reader as they try to understand Mike. Dayne's behaviour was by no means acceptable but I feel like the premise of the book was about the abuse and its impact on Mike so the reader should have read more of it. Dayne wasn't really in the story much at all other than in Mike's thoughts and head.

Mike irritated me quite a bit in the story as well. Perhaps hindsight is the reason for that or perhaps it was the product of his abuse that made him that way and that it was intentional on the authors part. I don't know. It just seemed to me that the signs were all there in the beginning and that he was ruling with the wrong head. Dayne showed signs of the way she was before they were even married. I had an "are you kidding me" moment when they went out for their anniversary dinner and she belittled him and yet he had sex with her when they got back to the hotel. It seemed that no matter how cruel or hurtful her words were, which were indicated that they were, there was still room and time for a romp in the hay.  Also, he basically hated her but was shocked and depressed when she actually left. Was this an effort to show how screwed up he was from the abuse?

There are no excuses for Dayne's behaviour and abuse of any kind is not acceptable. I want to make that perfectly clear. I do, however feel that there was some fault on both sides for the failed marriage. For such a serious subject matter I felt like the book was too squeaky clean, dull and lacked the grit and dirt that would have brought the message home. It was a little too clean and preachy for my liking.

Can you see why I think it would make for a great discussion with a book club?


About the Author

My writing and speaking center on relationships. I enjoy using stories as a conduit to broader and deeper discussion, particularly discussion that examines life from atypical perspectives and heightened awareness.

I began my professional career with a bachelors degree from Loma Linda University. From there I explored a varied and interesting career path in healthcare, public relations, university administration, and medical education. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of educating, encouraging, and mentoring other talented individuals, which I consider my highest professional achievement.

My books and presentations have emerged from a lifetime of relationships and interactions, and from my personal experiences as an avid listener, wife, and mother. I enjoy reading books that provide insight into my own experiences and struggles, so I strive to do the same for my readers and audiences.

My husband, Joe, and I live in the San Diego area. We have four grown children, two wonderful sons-in-law, and one adorable granddaughter. (From Goodreads profile)

Connect with Jenell

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