Today we have with us Author Judy Shine Logan, whose novel Shelter Me: When Friendship is All that Remains delves into the harsh reality of Domestic Violence including that most heartrending question: Why does a battered woman stay with her abuser?
Judy Shine Logan
Judy, you worked in the Department of Psychiatry at the Boston Regional Medical Center and, later, as a volunteer for an organization that helps abused women. How did these experiences shape and influence your novel Shelter Me?
I began work at BRMC in 1984 as secretary while I worked toward my degrees. This job and subsequent ones at BRMC put me in direct contact with the battered women and their children treated there. As the mother of small children, myself, I could not fathom how someone could hurt their significant other, much less their little ones. The only way to purge this daily trauma from my psyche was to go home at night and write it out.
Years later, after receiving my Master’s degree in education and developing health care curriculum for decades, I retired, moved to Vegas, and volunteered at Safe Nest. Again, the domestic violence experiences were jolting and made me ask the same questions – “Why?”
A pivotal conversation with my grandmother years before made me want to juxtapose the two women–-their ages, their love experiences, their needs in moving on, etc.
Sometimes, books that highlight a social problem can seem a bit artificial or preachy. How did you balance your exploration of the important issue of domestic violence with the need to tell a good story?
I think Domestic Violence (DV) tells its own story just like the one in the news this week: NFL football player, Rick Rice caught on tape beating up his girlfriend (who is now his wife). There is no denying the intensity and reality of that beating and it makes you wonder if that is what happens in public, what is going on at home out of sight?
In this country alone, one in four women is battered and 1 in 6 men; DV knows no social, economic, religious or intellectual boundaries. DV is about bullies, who do not recognize boundaries and who overpower their loved ones to get their own way.
For the most part, the public knows and agrees that DV is wrong and bad – but what they do not know is why people stay in such relationships.
There is no easy answer! It is not as simple as “I’d just leave.” There are economic, social, religious, and intellectual constraints, not to mention the physical danger in leaving.
Also, it is easy to run on two legs, but for each child a woman (or man) has, that is two more legs to run on. There is a story that illustrates this well: A man is lonely so he buys a centipede…
All of the characters in Shelter Me have their flaws. They are truly three-dimensional individuals. How did you build characters that were both sympathetic and realistic?
Thank you for the compliment. I think it is the author’s job to observe people and to note habits, quirks, and snippets of conversation that reveal their personalities. I have seen enough widows (and experienced that up close and personal), and enough battered women and children to be able to mix and match traits that could keep them stuck in their traumas.
Mack, the battering husband was more difficult to make three-dimensional and I worried that I had not accomplished that. Sure, he is dangerous and nasty, but he did not feel “deep enough” for me. Battering men are not more stereotypic than other groups of people. They can be charming, as Mack was with the waitress, and they can be sympathetic as the young mothers felt for him, and they can be insane and cruel as experienced by the man who owed Mack money.
What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Shelter Me?
Writing it so no one recognized him/herself from my life….lol. Seriously, though, there are elements of real people in the book, though blown up beyond reality, and I waited for several people to die before putting the book out there.
Without giving too much away, Shelter Me ends on a hopeful but not-quite-resolved note. Why did you choose to end the novel as you did? As the author, do you know what happens to Terry and Anne after the action of the book ends?
I agree that I ended the book as you say, and I think its realistic ending, but one that is not really an ending. Yes, I know what happens to Terry and Anne and you can read it in the sequel…lol.
What are you working on now? Do you plan to revisit the world you created in Shelter Me?
As I just mentioned, I am working on the sequel to Shelter Me, as well as a book of spiritual messages and four short stories that popped into my head recently on vacation. A writer never stops writing…lol.
Thanks for interviewing me, Carrie Ann.
My review of Judy Shine Logan’s Shelter Me:
Two women with very different lives meet at work and develop a friendship that changes both of them.
When newly widowed Anne is forced to get a job, she finds few potential employers willing to take on someone with no work experience. Her luck changes when an office manager named Terry, desperate for a receptionist, gets her famously slow-to-action boss to allow her to hire whomever she wants. She hires Anne, which I found pretty amusing because Anne is not particularly pleasant even at her job interview. She’s prickly and quite judgmental. Much of this stems from her own insecurity and fear at being plunged into a reality she hadn’t been prepared for. Over time, the women warm to each other and Anne comes to learn that friendly, eager to please Terry is hiding a secret. Her husband beats her.
Raised by a battered woman who did nothing to foster confidence or self-esteem in her daughter, Terry found herself in an early marriage with a man who belittles and beats her. Her life is a constant battle to keep Mack content and calm, an effort doomed to failure. But Terry is sure their marital problems are her fault and balks at any suggestion that she should leave. Even the clear unhappiness of her two children is not enough to spur her to flee her situation. That is, until Mack’s violence reaches the point that Terry has to fight for her life. Finally, she takes her kids and flees to Anne’s house. Anne then has the unenviable job of guiding Terry to accept professional help and running interference when she weakens and wants to return home.
The author does a good job building complex, realistic characters and a convincing portrait of the psychology of domestic abuse. She shows how the role nurturer is used against women by men determined to exert control whatever the cost in pain or fear. Mack’s a vile individual. Logan tries to humanize him a bit, especially when he thinks he’s really killed Terry, but his repentance never quite convinces.
This was a difficult book to read. I found myself frustrated with Terry, and, sadly, could understand how friends and family of a woman like her can get fed up enough to walk away. There’s no saving someone who refuses all offers of help and sanctuary.
The ending of the book is quite abrupt. I’d say it was a cliffhanger, but cliffhangers cut the action at the point of highest tension. Logan writes past that point, the immediate danger is removed, but then she just stops. I’ve rarely known a novel to end on a piece of dialog. It’s unsettling. A follow-up novel is in the works, but I think she still could have offered a paragraph or two to bring this first installment to a more definite conclusion.
Nevertheless, SHELTER ME is a gripping story and a sensitive exploration of domestic abuse and the healing power of female friendships.