Thursday, January 19, 2017

Psychological Suspense Thriller, Phantom Limb, by Lucinda Berry, Just Out!

It was good that they'd had each other because the life they would have gave them no other love than each other's. More than likely, the two girls were left alone, in their crib constantly, living on formula when they got it. When they got older, they had already come to know fear as a way of life. Why would a mother treat her child as this one did? We don't know. All we know is the results of that treatment.

When we lived with Mother, she'd disappeared and left us locked in our bedroom for days. Emily was the one who'd figured out how to get rid of the itchy and painful red rash all over our legs and inner thighs. The rash was a result of wearing the same urine-and-feces soaked diapers for days, but we didn't dare take them off. She'd grabbed the wire hanger that she used to beat us and added painful welts on top of our open wounds. There was a big red plastic bucket in our room that Mother had left behind once. Emily started taking her diaper off and squatting over it to go to the bathroom. I did too, and we both used the bucket as a toilet. While one of us peed, the other listened for the sound of Mother's keys in the front door. For some reason, Mother didn't mind when she found out we were using the bucket and she let us dump our bucket in the toilet once a week. We no longer sat in pounds of our waste, and the rashes on our legs finally went away. We still had to smell it, but at least we no longer had to sit in it.
The hours of hunger and isolation were endless, but we filled them up with each other. We told each other stories about imaginary families and made each other laugh. But our favorite game was to take turns pretending to be the mother. When I was Emily's mother, I knew how she liked to have her hair stroked, so she would lay on my lap and I'd stroke her hair over and over again while I hummed. When Emily was my mother, she knew I liked to have my back stroked in circles, so she would draw pictures on my back before she fell asleep. We spoke in a secret language so when Mother was around she wouldn't know what we were saying to each other. We sang and played pretend in our crib performing for each other. When there was nothing left to eat and we were starving, we slept cuddled close to each other like puppies trying to stay warm.
Sleep during starvation was fitful. It was like being halfway between asleep and awake. I would slip in and out of lucid dreams. Sometimes we shared the same dream. We moved in and out of consciousness together. 
We were five when Mother started letting us out of our bedroom and into the rest of the apartment...

"Girls, stand up and come
meet the special friend I
was telling you about this
morning." She'd never
told us about anyone, but
we did as we were told and
stood up. "Come her. Come
closer. Don't be shy." We
took a few steps in their
direction. "I told you they
were adorable." She looked
up at him, but he wasn't
looking at her. He was
looking at us, licking his
lips with a half sneer
tugging at the corner of
his mouth...
The beginning of the book reminded me of the stories by V. C. Andrews, which were best sellers at their highest point. I read Flowers in the Attic and quickly decided, not for me... Be prepared for graphic child abuse in the first section. 

When the girls were allowed out in their apartment, they had tried to cook and accidentally caused a fire. They had run and hidden in their bedroom closet and it was a fireman who found them there, emaciated, with little clothing, and quickly made the decision to contact authorities. Emily and Elizabeth were soon put into foster care. It was the first time they'd ever been outside.

The majority of the book is of the adult twins, now living in an apartment after graduating high school...

Phantom Limb
By Lucinda Berry

Dr. Lucinda Berry is a trauma psychologist and leading researcher in childhood trauma. She uses her clinical experience to create disturbing psychological thrillers, blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction. She enjoys taking her readers on a journey through the dark recesses of the human psyche. If she's not chasing her eight-year-old son around, you can find her running through the streets of Los Angeles prepping for her next marathon. To be notified of her upcoming releases, visit here at

After reading the first part, I turned to look at this author's credentials. I unfortunately know that the types of things happening to children are horrendous and I was deciding whether I could continue with the book. Berry is a trauma psychologist and leading researcher in childhood trauma. She is combining both nonfiction and fiction in her novels...

The significant thing about the book is that the author has the ability to weave that potential specific nonfiction into an incredible story of suspense that soon grabs the reader. After the first part while the twins were still with their mother, only flashbacks and very little graphic detail are included through the rest of the book... On the back of the book, it states, "A character-driven mystery that begs to be read in a single setting!" Well, whoever said that, I totally agree...and did just that, reading well into early this morning to finish it... If you are interested in psychological suspense, I highly recommend this one!

It was Emily who had suggested and then pushed to move into an apartment after they graduated.

The twins foster parents had been wonderful to them, especially at the beginning when they were physically starved. They had never had the opportunity to learn to eat so their foster mother spent many long and dedicated hours helping the girls through their PTSD as well as physical issues. 

Elizabeth had been the older child by minutes, but she had also turned out to be the stronger one. One of the reasons, she realized later, was that she had learned how to escape from reality when necessary...Thus she lost the time and the trauma of the experiences forced on her by "special friends" that her  mother started to bring in to visit when they were still young...

Now Elizabeth was taking college classes, had a boring job of telemarketing, which at least provided money and flexible hours, and wonder of wonders, she'd met a man and become involved. Thomas was a student also and was training to become a youth pastor. Elizabeth soon learned she could trust him and he never pressured her to go into things she didn't want to have happen. He himself was saving his virginity for marriage...

While Elizabeth's life was beginning to look good for the future, Emily stayed at their apartment, rarely left, slept continuously and went from deep depression to being able to cook and help her sister while she was home. But it seemed that Emily was in depression more than not...
"Okay," he said, "if you really want to
know, I'll tell you...She said you were
crazy and that I just didn't know it yet.
She told me you were really great at
pretending to be fine and I had to be a
fool if I believed you were normal. She
went on and on about how damaged
you are. Oh, and she kept saying she
felt like it was her duty to warn me
about you because she knew you'd
hurt me...
I felt like someone had taken a baseball
bat and slammed the end of it into the
middle of my gut...I couldn't believe
Emily had said those things about me.

Elizabeth and Thomas were getting close, but Elizabeth had delayed introducing Thomas to Emily, not knowing how it would go... She had a right to be concerned... Emily immediately started acting differently and even went to where Thomas was and started strongly telling him to stay away from Elizabeth... Elizabeth was astounded and so hurt hearing about this from Thomas, because when she got home, Emily had acted as if nothing had changed...

Elizabeth exploded! And later found Emily in the bathroom with pills all around, vomit, and...blood... she'd been cutting herself again...this time too deep... 

They said later that Elizabeth had tried to commit suicide. That was why she was now strapped down in the psych ward of the hospital... Elizabeth had no memory of trying to kill herself and all she could remember was Emily lying there in the fetal position...cold...and...dead...

This begins the major part of the book, as Elizabeth has been committed by her adoptive parents for her own safety. Readers will spend time with her as she daily lives within this confined space, meeting other patients, one of whom is Rose, who is there for anorexia, and who quickly befriends Elizabeth and is able to answer all the questions that Elizabeth asks... Rose is the first friend that Elizabeth ever had, other than her sister...

Even though the time seems to go slowly for readers as Elizabeth becomes indoctrinated into a world run solely by others, on a strict schedule and with absolutely no privacy, it is that time in the book that we begin to come to grip with what is actually happening... For readers it begins with sympathy, but then it becomes more addictive... We need to understand, just like Elizabeth does... And we want to know that this knowledge will come and help Elizabeth move forward into a new life...

What we find is an unbelievable story that slowly dissolves the mystery. What still leaves us...shocked...and...seeking more... I must admit that the memory of the very first psychological drama I saw, Snake Pit, made in 1948, came to mind at the end...and its song...



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