Kathleen Stauffer was kind enough to send me a copy of her latest book, Do Not Be Deceived, and I thank her for it! Below is my review. I’m not prone to giving five stars, but I’m happy to give this one a four.
This book is about a young girl who grows up in a grim home. It follows her struggles and development in a place of neglect, isolation, and poverty.
Cassandra Walwyn is an interesting girl. Upon discovering that names can have meaning, she steadies herself with that fact as she tries to come to grip with a fallen, unjust world, making her way although many want to use and abuse her.
Told in first person narrative, she recounts what she knows from when she was roughly five. She seems to catalog what she knows, sensing that key pieces are waiting to be revealed. I especially enjoyed the voice and perspective of the child’s younger years.
The book deals with serious topics, including a child’s limited-but-exceedingly-honest perspective, neglect, injustice, struggles, the teens at their worst, sexual abuse, shame, and rebirth, all while Cassandra continues to ponder, and suffer from, abandonment via the mysterious disappearance of her mother and older sister.
Overall, Stauffer did a great job in what she revealed and what she left for an adult reader to infer. Although there are troubling scenes, the author writes in such a way that the story is not lewd or overly-graphic. I found this book to be empathetic with childhood victims of abuse, young and pubescent.
I deeply appreciated that the church and some of its congregation members played key roles. The author’s portrayal of Cassandra’s response to statue of Christ on the cross offers a real perspective shift. I wish the pastor had said more, and I suspect the author had very different experiences at Christian camps than I did. Still, this book witnesses to the power of baptism, Christian outreach, and family—even if its broken.