STARRED REVIEW
June 2018

An all-too-common nightmare

By Kelly Sundberg

Kelly Sundberg’s memoir of domestic violence brilliantly records the shock, physical and emotional pain and, perhaps most poignantly, the confusion of abuse. The same man who could proclaim his love for Sundberg and their young child was also capable of verbally and physically assaulting her.

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Kelly Sundberg’s memoir of domestic violence brilliantly records the shock, physical and emotional pain and, perhaps most poignantly, the confusion of abuse. The same man who could proclaim his love for Sundberg and their young child was also capable of verbally and physically assaulting her.

As a young woman, Sundberg longed for safety, and she found it with her warm, funny husband, Caleb. But eventually, he became the man most likely to kill her as cycles of abuse, regret and reconciliation became shorter and more intense. This confusing experience (sometimes called “gaslighting”) is one reason why women stay with their abusers, especially if they have become isolated from friends and family.

Because of its subject matter, Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival might seem difficult to read, but Sundberg’s crystalline prose and insightful narration lighten the reading experience. Sundberg captures the slow, terrifying evolution of her relationship: how a few red flags and a frightening episode of rage snowballed into brutal physical violence. She is careful (maybe too careful?) to balance her portrait of Caleb’s abuse with his good qualities, and she does not engage in self-pity. She provides an important record of how anyone could find themselves in an abusive relationship and lends understanding to the reasons they stay—and how and why she eventually left.

Sundberg’s story is haunting, propulsive and, perhaps for some readers, familiar. Her wrenching memoir deserves to be read by a wide audience so that we can all learn to recognize the signs of domestic abuse.

But Sundberg is also a talented writer with many more stories to tell: about her childhood in Salmon, Idaho, her experiences as a forest ranger and her difficult relationship with her mother. These narratives, hinted at throughout Goodbye, Sweet Girl, suggest a rich terrain of material for Sundberg to mine in future stories. I, for one, look forward to hearing more from her.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Goodbye, Sweet Girl

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

By Kelly Sundberg
Harper
ISBN 9780062497673

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