"Truth and reconciliation"

The author responds to Julia Gracen's review.

Published May 29, 2002 9:28PM (EDT)

[Read the original article.]

I wrote "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again: The Road from Estrangement to Reconciliation" for people struggling with all kinds of estrangements, and it can be helpful to people in a wide variety of circumstances. In its pages, readers meet crime victims entering into mediations with the criminals who hurt them, Israeli and Palestinian girls learning to listen to each other, Vietnam veterans going back to Vietnam, and a myriad of ordinary people making peace with the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends they thought they'd never speak to again.

"I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" is not primarily about sexual abuse, and that's my problem with Julia Gracen's review, "Truth and Reconciliation." Gracen wrote one paragraph describing my new book and then spent the rest of her review rehashing the controversy over my first book, "The Courage to Heal."

The fact that Gracen spent 95 percent of her critique discussing the false memory debate is a misrepresentation of "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" and a real disservice to the people who could use help resolving troubled relationships that have nothing to do with sexual abuse. By presenting "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" primarily as an extension of the debate surrounding "The Courage to Heal," she neglected to inform her readers about what the new book has to offer.

All of us carry the painful burden of relationships that have been sundered by betrayal, distrust, anger, and misunderstanding. "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" examines what tears people apart, what keeps them estranged from each other, and lays out the steps by which we all can mend broken relationships and find wholeness.

Personally, I think your readers would benefit more from learning about positive approaches to mending relationships and peace-building than they would from one more article describing the debate about whether or not survivors of sexual abuse can actually recall abuse years after it occurred.

Ironically, my approach to reconciliation offers an alternative to the kind of acrimonious conflict that Ms. Gracen's article engenders.

I also want to address Ms. Gracen's depiction of my reconciliation with my mother. She states that in our renewed relationship, "any truth or guilt or accountability can be set aside." This is simply not true. My mother and I have worked hard to restore a relationship that seemed irreconcilable to both of us. The subtleties of that process were lost on Ms. Gracen, who misrepresented the story in her article.

My mother and I were on opposite sides of the "false memory" debate, and have found a way to make peace despite the fact that I have not recanted and my mother doesn't believe me. In the weeks since the book came out, people on both sides of this debate have told me that our story has been inspiring and useful to them. It has given people food for thought and opened their minds to the possibility that there might be some way to build a bridge with estranged family members, despite the fact that they don't agree.

I am the first to acknowledge that the approach my mother and I took is not for everyone. That's why I have presented such a wide array of reconciliation scenarios, some of which involve the other person and some of which involve letting go of the relationship and finding resolution internally. I make it clear throughout my book that there are cases in which reconciliation is not possible or desirable, yet there are times when even a small improvement in an excruciatingly painful relationship (or lack of relationship) can make a world of difference in our lives.

I hope that Salon readers who are involved in estranged relationships which have ended because of bitter divorces, fights over wills, differences in values, miscommunication, misunderstandings, immaturity, violations of trust, sexual abuse (or conflicts over sexual abuse), or other reasons, will visit my Web site or read "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again" for themselves, so they can decide whether any of the four paths of reconciliation I describe might help them achieve a sense of peace and resolution, or if and when the conditions are right, recovered love.

-- Laura Davis

By Salon Staff

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