When I was asked if I could review Manipulated Lives I jumped at the chance but sadly life got in the way and it took longer than initially planned. However I finally got round to reading and I’m really kicking myself that I didn’t get to it sooner.
Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
Manipulated Lives is a collection of five short stories, each one very different but all with the same common factor, manipulation. You have Tess and Tattoos, The Spell, Runaway Girl, The Narcissist and My Perfect Child. I chose to read one each evening instead of reading it all in one go which I probably could have done no problem, it was quite fascinating.
They were all very good but the one that probably stood out the most was The spell, which focuses on a new relationship. Sophie first meets Leo, a young boy at a gym café and then ends up in a relationship with his Dad, David. I’m not sure why I found this one so unsettling, maybe because I was worried about the safety of young Leo but it becomes very apparent early on that David isn’t telling Sophie the truth. I found myself totally gripped and desperately wanting to know the truth.
All the stories are very well written but I’ve found that sometimes with novellas you don’t get a chance to really know the characters, but that was not the case with Manipulated Lives. Each story is very well plotted, giving enough information to leave you satisfied at the end.
Clearly very well researched, reading these stories I found myself wondering if I knew any manipulators or if I in fact had ever been manipulated. What these people do is clever and it’s not like you could pick them out of a crowd, it’s quite scary in fact how well people can do it and really opened my eyes.
I definitely recommend giving Manipulated Lives a read, it’s thought-provoking and gripping and will leave you questioning the people you think you know.