Looking Glass Lies (Varina Denman) – Review

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations.

For most of her adult life, Cecily Ross has compared herself to other women—and come up short. After a painful divorce from her emotionally abusive husband, Cecily returns to her hometown of Canyon, Texas, looking to heal.

But coming home isn’t what she expects. In a town as small as Canyon, her pain is difficult to escape—especially with her model-perfect ex–sister-in-law working at the town’s popular coffee-shop hangout. With help from her father, a support group, and an old friend who guides her to see her own strengths, Cecily may have a shot at overcoming her insecurities and learning to love again.

The true test comes when tragedy strikes, opening Cecily’s eyes to the harmfulness of her distorted views on beauty—and giving her the perfect opportunity to find peace at last.

~ Excerpt ~

Nestled behind a college brochure was a picture of Brett and me, taken just before we left for college. I brought it close to my face and scrutinized my eighteen-year-old self. I had thought myself pretty then. The girl in the photo had long—almost waist-length—hair, thinner hips, no tattoos, but she was definitely me. Same flat chest, same pug nose, nothing special. And there was Brett, as handsome as ever, his arm hanging limply over my shoulders.
Even then Brett hadn’t been completely satisfied. Even with my long hair and thin hips and flat, smooth stomach, he had wanted something—someone—a little better.
I yanked everything else off the bulletin board in five groping handfuls. Brett Ross could take a flying leap right into the pink mesh trash can. Just like he’d said on the phone, I was no longer his problem.
Peeking into the mirror, I ran my hands through my hair, wishing for the length I had back then and remembering the day I got it cut. I had obediently followed Brett to the salon, and the hairdresser had obediently followed Brett’s instructions, and when we left the shop, I felt confident and attractive.
The girl had gone on and on about my thick hair and smooth complexion, but now I figured she had simply been trying to sell more products. She knew as well as I did that Brett’s bank account ran deep when he wanted something. Turns out they were both liars, and I was a fool to believe them.
I wrapped my fingers around the long side of my hair and yanked, hard, as though I was pulling a rope in a tall bell tower, while Brett’s words from that day echoed in my mind.
It’s not quite what I had envisioned.
Somehow I thought it would be different.
You’re still beautiful, though. Of course.
My teeth ground against each other as I stared at the limp hair in my fist, and I growled. Then in one sudden movement, I fell to my knees and snatched the scissors from the floor. My hands trembled as I stuck my fingers through the handles, and the blades slid against each other noisily as I drew them to my forehead.
But then I stopped and stared at myself in the mirror, startled.
And I laughed bitterly.
No wonder Daddy was worried about me.
I dropped the scissors and retrieved my phone from the floor, intending to slip it into the pocket of my shorts, but there was no pocket. Instead, I found myself listening, just one more time, to my ex-husband’s voice mail.

~ Review ~

This novel resonated deeply with me, as it likely will with any woman who picks it up. Who among us hasn’t compared herself to other women at some time or other—whether it be in physical appearance, intelligence, housekeeping or mothering skills, or a host of other areas—and come up short? For women who have suffered emotional and/or physical abuse, like Cecily, these comparisons can be debilitating.

My heart ached for Cecily from the opening pages of this book. Although the first chapter only hints at the reasons for her poor self-image, it’s enough for us to understand that the lies she believes have been subtly and not-so-subtly reinforced by her husband over and over again. We gain a better understanding of what Cecily endured in her marriage as the story progresses, and although Denman is tactful in the way she imparts the information, she still allows the reader to grasp the full, ugly truth.

Part of that truth is the destructive power of pornography—on both men and women. Denman handles the topic with grace, sensitivity, and purpose, and while this doesn’t make the topic any more palatable, it does give the reader courage to confront it. And we do need to confront it. We need to realise how ubiquitous the temptation is, and that it can sink its talons into the willing and unwilling alike.

Given Cecily’s emotional state and the weighty topics included, it would be easy for this novel to become mired in negativity, but Denman never lets us dwell there. Instead, she’s created a cast of characters who bring much needed dimension, colour, and occasionally even levity to the story, particularly Shanty Espinosa—loud and extroverted support group leader.

Former school friend and counsellor Graham ‘Cracker’ Harper is another character who connects with Cecily, on both a professional and non-professional level. It is in this relationship that the reader can clearly see the way in which Cecily’s wounds not only blind her to the truth about herself, but also colour the way she sees and interprets everyone around her.

This is a novel that asks us to become vulnerable on behalf of its characters so that we can share their pain and grow with them. It doesn’t provide pat answers, quick-fixes, or one-size-fits-all solutions, but it does encourage us to look beyond the lies and take control where we can: in our response to the lies and the amount of power we give them.

It’s not an easy read, but it is a powerful one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review.

Release date:  2 May 2017
Pages:  318
Publisher:  Waterfall Press

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  Goodreads

~ About the Author ~

Varina DenmanVarina Denman enjoys writing fiction about women and the unique struggles they face. Her novels include the Mended Hearts trilogy: Jaded, Justified, and Jilted, as well as her latest release, Looking Glass Lies. She seems to have a knack for describing small town life, and her debut novel, Jaded, won the ACFW Genesis Contest, the BRMCWC Selah Award, and the INSPYs Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature.

Varina attended three universities over a span of five years, majoring in four subjects and earning zero degrees. However, she can now boast sixteen years as a home educator, volunteering in her local cooperative where she has taught numerous subjects including creative writing and literature. Varina lives in North Texas where she volunteers in local marriage and family ministry. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.

Connect with Varina:  Website  //  Blog  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest

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About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
Image | This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, New Releases, Women's Fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Looking Glass Lies (Varina Denman) – Review

  1. Wow. So many important issues here…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Author Interview with Varina Denman | Fiction Aficionado

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