Battered, Tattered, But Not Shattered: Finding The Strength In What Remains is a memoir by Marie Abanga. This is part of a series of memoir accounts, and focuses on her abusive marriage and how she rebuilt her life afterwards.
I always enjoy Marie’s unique way with words, like this gem: “I know I have the guts to write about this, especially as an African brought up in the culture of ‘learning to wash dirty linen in your bowels’.”
The book explores Marie’s marriage, which she describes as a sham and likens to a Cold War, her eventual decision to leave him, and her journey of building her life back up again. She explains that in Cameroonian society, it is considered acceptable for men to ignore their wives to teach them proper submissiveness. What began as emotional abuse escalated to physical as well as financial abuse and forced sexual intercourse.
Once she made the difficult decision to leave her husband and leave her children behind, she fled to the wilderness, which she defines as “any place where there is simply no ‘sunshine’ or hope for a near good ending.” She made her way to Dubai, then on to Tanzania where she worked with the International Criminal Court for Rwanda, and then on to Belgium to pursue further education.
She describes the culture shock of moving to Belgium, and refers to herself as a Mary Just Come. However, she “Dared 2 Dare” and, with the support of a Super Superhero took advantage of the opportunities that became available to her. The book follows her transition from a Mary Just Come to a Mary Knows Plenty.
She shares a list of 36 lessons she had learned over 36 years of life, concluding with: “Baring myself in my memoir was the most dreadful thing l did to my family, the most therapeutic thing l did for myself, and an amazing thing l did for my community.”
She also writes about the experience of losing her day-old daughter, and concludes the book with a touching letter to her.
What was perhaps most interesting for me with this book was the insight it gave into Cameroonian culture and attitudes towards marriage and family. It was also interesting to read about Marie’s experience of culture shock adjusting from living in Africa to living in Europe. And of course as always, Marie’s personality is very much infused into her writing. A fascinating read.
You can find Marie on Marie Abanga’s Blog.
You can find my other book reviews here.