Review: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

manipulated-livesReview: Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel

Date of Publication: June 8th 2016

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, psychology, Short Stories

Pages: 274

Format: eGalley (provided by author)

Rating:★★★★ (4.5 Stars)

A very special thank you to the lovely H.A. Leuschel for providing me with a eGalley of her book Manipulated Lives. All opinions are my own.

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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 a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is 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 and finally 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. 

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Manipulated Lives is a short story collection that follows the lives of those who have fallen victim to manipulative people. Although this is a work of fiction, Leuschel accurately portrays the impact left on those affected by manipulation. Through personal experience alone, I was able to connect to her writing & feel the depths of confusion felt by those who had to have the veil lifted from their eyes one way or another. These short stories are packed with pain, sorrow, betrayal, but also hope. Hope for those that are able to escape the grips of manipulation & understanding that it isn’t something they did wrong. That it is however, a special trait in those inclined to manipulate, to target those that are seen as too caring or good hearted. I found it most interesting that in each story, the manipulator varied in age and gender. We get both sides of the coin, the effects on the lives of the manipulated but also the self destruction of the manipulator when discovered/confronted.  Each of these stories was impactful & moving in different ways but there are two that stand out the most for me. I won’t go into too much detail describing each of the stories because I do feel that it is is best to go in blind reading this collection. The manipulation described is so disturbing that it will catch you off guard which I took as a sign of great writing. The second story in this collection is titled Tess and Tattoos, this one is my favorite in the collection because it’s told from the perspective of an old woman in an assisted living complex. Tess is a very independent woman who really is in need of love & good company but instead she is lonely with not a single family relative to visit her. She befriends a nurse rather quickly who takes interest in Tess’ background & just why exactly she has no one come and visit her. Her story unfolds and ends rather sadly but I felt that in befriending Sara (nurse), Tess found the strength to liberate herself from all her demons. Tess was a living testament that you may physically detach yourself from a manipulative person however, their reach may be very far into your psyche. This story will probably stay in my soul. The last story in this collection is titled My Perfect Child, and it honestly sang to the mother in me. Although I couldn’t relate to the protagonists experience with her son, I was able to understand the need or want to be the BEST for your child because your own parent fell unbelievably short of mediocre. The mother in this story decided that her son would not want/need for anything, that she would be his EVERYTHING. She plays a big role in the man he grows up to be. I had a hard time digesting the ending for many reasons, in part because I am a mother myself. This one had me questioning what i’d do if I were in her shoes (no spoilers here lol)…it’s actually still lingering in my mind so i’ll take it as food for thought & a cautionary tale. I am really hoping to read more of Leuschel’s writing in the future, it stands out as one of the best for me in 2016.

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This was a tough read for me because of a personal experience that honestly has changed how I make and view new friendships. It’s not an easy thing to trust again after you’ve encountered a manipulative person, especially after many years of their mind games. The part that gets me, is that it’s always someone who is either very close to you or will manage to get very close to you. This book intrigued me as soon as I saw a few trusted blogger friends read & review it…that titlethat cover…it wouldn’t stop calling my attention. The author kindly reached out after seeing my re-tweet of a fellow blogger friends review & I was very happy to accept. What I hadn’t expected, was for this to be such an impactful & poignant read. I know now that there was a reason for my crossing paths with this book & it’s author. I spent many years after physically cutting ties with my manipulator,  wondering about them & how they were faring and if they were up to the same old games. I went through a range of emotions, some where I even got on myself for being so naive & blind to their intentions. See, although I had physically parted ways…that person still had a hold on my thoughts & therefore still had a hold on me. I am finally mentally liberated from this person as a whole but it wasn’t until reading Manipulated Lives, that I realized how lucky I am really, because this person didn’t get to ruin my life. I may still be a work in progress, but at least all is not lost 😉