5/5 stars overall, and 4/4 stars for healing hearts!
About the book:
Allyson Graham, marriage counselor and lover of love, lived a life of romance few could imagine. Until her husband's secret addiction stared at her from the computer screen. Will she be able to forgive the man who lied to her all of those precious years? Follow her painful story alongside the heartbreaking story of Taylor Adams, a young girl searching for her worth in the world. As Allyson struggles to forgive her husband for lying about his addiction, Taylor naively falls into the same self-destructive industry and discovers that the attention and fun is nothing like she thought it would be. Discover the hearts of these two women as they search for beauty after the rain.
Wow. This story kept building and building in regards to depth and insight. At first I was thinking this was a four star book because I wasn't able to understand Ally's outrage, but by the end of the book the character's growth was so impressive the story had moved up from four to five stars in my opinion. Everything came together so well even though it was NOT all neat and tidy, and yeah, it got me crying, too. I love it when a book moves me to tears in a good way. The coolest thing about this book was the faith thread and how honestly and naturally it was portrayed. The author didn't seem to concern herself with how her characters should think and act. She made them real by showing how they really thought and acted, and she did a great job of it because I forgot I was reading several times. I felt like I knew the characters well by book's end.
I think I identified the most with Taylor. She was so trapped. And her neediness and faulty thinking just kept her more glued to the heartache. She clearly had that phenomenon going where victims identify so much with their abusers that they become loyal to them regardless of how badly they were hurt. Even when she tried to get away, she failed because she was so lost. I hurt for her. I loved how the author showed the ugly side of her life and made her plight so real. A few times it was so intense I needed to take a break from the book and just let it soak into my head and heart. I tend to mull things over a lot and this story gave me a lot to ponder. When I went back to reading things intensified. I thought it was brilliant how when Taylor's life got worse, Ally started remembering the good times. I think that helped keep me reading because there was balance there between the heavy and the beautiful stuff.
It's hard to post a review without posting spoilers, but I will try to. Ally's growth and living the experience of seeing God use her loss to be someone else's blessing was pretty powerful stuff. The best part was the transition was gradual enough to be believable. I loved how Ally realized that she was able to give advice to people when she wasn't suffering the same thing in her life, but when her client's lives mirrored her own, she discovered she didn't know the first thing about forgiveness or how to heal a marriage, even though she did that for a living. Ally had a perpetual sense of inadequacy that her husband's addiction fed whenever he confessed something else to her. But I commend him for confessing anyway. There is no real healing in a marriage where there are secrets kept. While I understood her husband's reluctance because she reacted exactly how he feared she would, he still told her about his past. That was brave.
I loved how Ally questioned God so much. Everything she thought was so honest. I also loved how when she pushed her husband away because of anger what she really wanted was for him to fight for her and for their marriage. How beautifully that was shown. I loved how he didn't always do the right thing, but Ally learned to look to God instead of to herself or her husband to be her strength. Again, beautifully done. This is one of those life-changing books that will stay on my keeper shelf.
While not perfect in regards to craft (at first some of the wording seemed a tad clunky), the powerful message and characterization won me over in the end. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but would caution someone who has been sexually used by men to make sure they are ready to deal with some of the scenes in Taylor's portion of the book before cracking this novel open. But the potential for healing is so much greater than the risk of emotional re-injury, that I would encourage everyone to pick it up and try it first. You can always set a book down when it becomes overwhelming, then pick it up again when you feel God is prodding you to try again. But if you never pick it up in the first place because of fear, you may be missing out on the biggest blessing of your life. I'm so glad I bought this book!
Exposed was published by Winslet Press and released in Sept. 2010.