Be Strong by Michele Mathews
“Be Strong” isn’t just the title of author Michele Mathews’ debut novel, it’s the theme as the reader is taken on the marital journey of the main character, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is a young woman who is set up on a date with a co-worker of her father’s. Tyrone appears to be everything she’s looking for: handsome, hardworking, devoted to family, and someone who promises to always encourage Elizabeth to follow her dreams. A church wedding follows their brief courtship. Elizabeth isn’t bothered by the fact that Tyrone had a previous wife. After all, his first wife wasn’t that great. Or so he tells Elizabeth.
I watched from the sidelines as Elizabeth and Tyrone’s marriage progressed to include babies while simultaneously unraveling in the process. Although I would have preferred more scene than summary in the storytelling, Mathews does a good job of introducing readers to the invisible wounds of emotional abuse.
“Tyrone turned and looked at her, as did the children. Madison’s eyes streamed tears. ‘Daddy says you’re taking us away from here,’ Madison said.” 5
It was exchanges like this that left me feeling for Elizabeth. She was repeatedly put in a position of victim and enemy by her husband. When she tried to meet his demands, he simply changed what he wanted to better suit him or created scenarios in which she couldn’t win no matter what she did. Their interactions were tense filled and left me rooting for Elizabeth and the children; the latter who were unknowing pawns in Tyrone’s mind games.
The time sequence of events made reading difficult at times as the author used time stamped words (later, two months ago, last week) on the same page and sometimes in the same paragraph. “Within four months of trying to get pregnant, Tyrone and Elizabeth learned they were going to become parents within two months of their one-year anniversary.” 49 This was a small issue though and the month/year stamps at the top of each chapter helped me to stay grounded in the events.
I hope to see more books by this author. I believe as she continues to hone her craft, there will be more vivid showing of relationship exchanges. She’ll be weaving more tales about significant matters that do two things. Allow men and women to not only get a snapshot view of how to conduct oneself in a relationship, but get a snapshot view of warning signs to look for before they commit.