My Review of Cara Brookins’ Rise: How a House Built a Family

“…the most important thing we learned is that this story-our story-was never about a house.” Cara Brookins, Rise

29939316Cara Brookins found herself, as unfortunately many women do in today’s society, seeking for a way out of an abusive marriage to a man who was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and made their life difficult and hellish. As she did so, she determined with the help of her four children, to build a new house to begin a new life.

They did.

Rise: How A House Built A Family (St Martin’s Press, 2017) is the telling of the how, the why, and the in spite of the building of Inkwell Manor.

How? One board, one day, and one decision (and re-decision) at a time.

Why? To escape the terror of living with a man, once loved and respected, whose mental illness drove him to consider doing (and in a few situations actually doing) terrifying things to Brookins and her four children.

And the in spite of?

In spite of looks of “Yeah, right lady you’re gonna build a house…”

In spite of workers not showing up on the job or… well, showing up ‘not fully there…’

In spite of weather, Cara’s own misgivings fears and overshadowing past,  and the challenges of working and raising a family…

And mostly, in spite of the ever present threat to her and the family’s security and very lives.

Rise is well written. The narrative is a ‘you are there’ narrative and you, the reader,

…are present when the walls go up after finally getting the foundation  done

…when skeptical building officials, contractors, and suppliers scoff under veiled (and not so veiled) comments

…when success in one area is met with a setback in another

…when the slow and agonizing work of getting a mentally ill person the help he needs grinds on

…and when a final terrifying series of moments, life and death to be exact, unfold and you consider all the options, including one which allows you to hold another person’s life in their hands

It is a story of success, hard won, with moments of terror that you know are just over the shoulder.

Brookins has brought into the light, in a well-written, raw, and poignant way, the reality of life for many families and women who are terrorized and worse by spouses, friends, partners, family members, and lovers who are threats to others, and themselves. Rise is a story about a family who deals with domestic violence and mental illness and overcomes. It is a story of hope and courage. It is a story that has been told, needed to be told, and must be heard and understood.

Rise is a book that has left me with a greater understanding of the awfulness of domestic violence and mental illness. It is a book which educators, social workers and counselors, public officials, mental health and medical professionals, and people in my own profession, that of the clergy, need to read. For people like Cara Brookins and her family are in our classrooms, clinics, examination rooms,  courtrooms, work places, and places of worship and they need our help and understanding.

Survivors of domestic violence and their families should be encouraged to read this book as well. It is a true story, told without being overly dramatic, which needs to be heard because one woman, and her four kids, built a house to escape, then survive and finally thrive as a family.

I gave Rise a five star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an e-galley copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.



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