The feeling of lonely causes a disturbance in the mental psyche and begins to paralyze one’s ability to navigate in the outside world and even understand one’s self.
But what’s unknown at times is that cause of lonely – that inner-voice trapping you and keeping you in touch with your past – a past that has scarred you mentally and emotionally, possibly, for life.
What if you trusted no one around you? What if you feared being touched or even looked at by the opposite sex? What if lonely became your best friend and you were perfectly fine with that or not? What if the shell you hide yourself in was not a choice but rather an emotional response to an innocence stolen from you?
For Ella Boxx, the above is her living nightmare. Her talkative days coming home from school as a little girl turned from innocent to a grotesque violation when her Uncle Do-Man decided to make his move and begin to sexually molest her- leaving Ella to become extremely withdrawn and frightened.
But the story gets colder.
With her debut novel, Why?, Chicago author D.A. Rhodes, poses a provocative question that dives into situations that reveal long-time family secrets and ongoing pain that travels through generation after generation, at times making it hard to even turn the page.
Set during the ‘40s and ‘50s in Chicago and St. Louis when many families were heading north in search of freedom and decent work, the first page of Why? opens with a bang.
Lee Otis Boxx, Ella’s father, finds himself in handcuffs and being rushed off to jail after shooting his brother, Do-Man, dead in a local Chicago bar he frequented.
Enraged after hearing what the town has been whispering about for some time and then finding out that his own brother has been the one going around molesting little girls, learning that his precious Ella, his youngest daughter of three, had been under the assault of this sick and twisted man… when it came to handling Do-Man, Lee Otis didn’t think twice. His anger was fueled and boiling.
Do-Man’s dead. Lee Otis sits in jail with a 20-year sentence. The community is shook. Ella is broken.
The fiber of the Boxx family completely crumbled.
Following the dramatic first scene, members of the family begin telling their own accounts of the situation and how they feel. This is where the meat and guts of the storyline prosper.
Within their personal accounts the readers learn that Do-Man never felt loved by his family and his father who was always so quick to scorn him, also introduced him to molestation. He made Do-Man engage in inappropriate acts and told him it was their little secret. The result, Do-Man grew up a disturbed and manipulative child that developed into a pedophile.
We learn Sadie, Ella’s mother and Lee Otis’s wife, had a disturbing upbringing as well. She was gang-raped by a group of white guys as a little girl and when she told her stepmother she was practically silenced and warned not to mention anything to her father.
Her story doesn’t end there, however. Sadie has demons and fears, which we find out later lead to the reason why it’s always been hard for her to love and accept Ella.
People were shocked when Lee Otis killed his brother, but secretly that wasn’t Lee Otis’s first handshake with murder.
He knew about Sadie’s rape attack after the two of them were walking one day and Sadie froze in her tracks when she saw the adult version of her young attackers. Lee Otis forced her to tell him what happened. Then, he went on his plot to kill all five of Sadie’s attackers. One-by-one those guys went missing.
We’re introduced to Grandma Babe, who becomes Ella’s savior in a sense once Sadie is finally convinced that after all that has taken place, it would be best for Ella to return to St. Louis.
Grandma Babe, the mother of Lee Otis and Do-Man puts on strong for Ella but in the midst she’s grieving the lost of a son whom she knew all along something wasn’t right with him and a son she hopes to see free before her growing age claims her life.
We’re taken on an emotionally intense and personal journey through the secrets and tragedies of the Boxx family.
Dealing with incest, molestation, and pedophiles will forever pose questions that seem never to gain an answer. And just as the story continues to unfold and reach it’s conclusion, the reader is left with an understanding of the cycle in which these actions grew, but overall, just as Ella asks in the final sentence, Why?
We continue to wonder what drives one to such behavior. We know it’s a cycle but where does that cycle begin? How can we protect the one’s we love?
Rhodes delivers a dark story filled with sadness and taboo. Difficult at times to read on, but a story that needed to be told and heard nonetheless. If anything, it will open eyes to the company you allow around your children while making you more aware that we just never know what the next person is battling.
To find out more about the author and to purchase a copy of Why?, visit www.darhodes.com.