Thin Places by Mary DeMuth.
Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted and of the millions of sexual abuse and rape victims, 15 percent are under the age of 12, according to a 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Justice. Critically acclaimed author Mary DeMuth is among the millions of adults who are victims of childhood rape and are living with the emotional scars of the haunting abuse.
DeMuth bravely shares her painful story in her new memoir, Thin Places (February 2010). Repeatedly raped by two neighborhood boys at a young age, DeMuth details her traumatic and disturbing childhood in the memoir. Raised in a broken home, she lost her biological father when she was ten and was stripped of her innocence growing up in an unstable environment where drugs were commonplace.
But Thin Places is about hope and healing more than it is about the traumatic events of DeMuth’s childhood. According to DeMuth, thin places are “snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways.” When she encountered the true love of Jesus at a Young Life camp in high school, DeMuth’s life trajectory changed. God reassembled the pieces of her emotionally fragile self, which initiated true healing and peace.
“Folks may wonder why I’ve spent all this time looking back,” says DeMuth, “dredging up what God sees of my story, what my eyes see. Jesus says truth sets people free. This is my way of doing that—of telling the stark truth on the page so others can be set free.”
DeMuth’s desire is to see readers set free from their family secrets. In light of that, she’s started a blog for readers to anonymously share their family secrets. Since the blog launched in February 2009, over 200 survivors have emailed their family secrets for DeMuth to anonymously post, and the blog was featured on Christianity Today’s blog, Her.meneutics. For more information, visit: http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org.
“Thin Places offers a poignant look at the development of a well-known Christian writer,” says Christian Retailing, and author Tosca Lee calls Thin Places, “brave, moving and poignant.”
Writing is a cathartic experience for DeMuth, and remnants from her past influence her books. They are infused into her nonfiction parenting advice as well as her fictional characters and plots. Her literary fiction features gritty story lines and touches on the dark subject of abuse. Her first novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, featured a 9-year-old girl who was raped by a neighborhood bully, and the Defiance Texas Trilogy examines the emotional pain that results from the disappearance of a young girl in Texas. DeMuth talks about these writing projects in Thin Places. “Writing [Watching the Tree Limbs] is a thin place where I see
God’s desire to heal me,” says DeMuth, “and I understand that He loves me no matter what emotions I express.”
Release: February 2010
Soft cover, 224 pp., $14.99
About the Author:
Author and speaker Mary DeMuth helps people turn their trials to triumph. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God; Building the Christian Family You Never Had; Watching the Tree Limbs; Wishing on Dandelions; Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture and the first two books in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy: Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn.
National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, Point of View and U.S.A. Radio Network and is frequently featured on Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint. She has published articles in In Touch, HomeLife, Writer’s Digest and The Writer.
You can read my testimony on my website (www.marydemuth.com). I came from a difficult upbringing, but Jesus saw fit to find me at fifteen. He has utterly changed my life.I’ve been married 18 years to my husband Patrick (who’s been told he looks like George Clooney on more than one occasion). Interesting side note: I’ve been told I look like Laura Dern, and we share the EXACT same birthday. Twins separated at birth? Possibly. If you’re reading this and you’re chums with Laura, could you probe a bit?
George (er, Patrick) and I have three kids: Sophie, Aidan and Julia. Sophie’s learning to drive—and what’s interesting is that I’m not worried about it. She’s a careful driver. My son Aidan is thirteen. He’s passionate about finding water for a small village in Ghana. We got to go on the trip of a lifetime to meet the village of Sankpem last summer. Our daughter Julia is ten and is deeply kindhearted, beautiful inside and out. We also have an overly needy (farting) dog and a fat & fuzzy (sometimes cranky) cat. Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas.
Learn more about Mary at http://marydemuth.com.
My True Story
By Mary DeMuth
When I started my writing journey toward publication, I thought I’d always be a novelist. My agent at the time suggested I write parenting books, something I balked at for quite some time. I was a storyteller after all. And because of my upbringing, I suffered from deep wells of insecurity in my parenting. And yet, I sold three parenting books. I wrote them from a position of weakness, and I prayed other parents with struggles similar to mine would be encouraged that they’re not alone. One facet strung its way through all my books: story.
I can’t help but tell stories, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. As I brainstormed with my next agent and my editor about who I wanted to be when I grew up, we all came back to story. I am a storyteller. We decided it would be best for me to place my primary focus on novel writing, but keep the storytelling alive in nonfiction.
Two years ago, I sensed the need, urge, and desire to write a memoir. I’d come a long way in my healing journey, enough that I could write it without bitterness, with a view toward God’s intervention. Thankfully, my vision for a memoir fit well within the story idea, and Zondervan took a risk and bought the book.
I wrote the book much like I’d write a novel, with an inciting incident, some flashbacks, a rising action and a late climax. Of course, as memoirs go, I had more freedom to explore and meander through the story, but I kept the book mostly in scenes, written in first person present tense to create intimacy and immediacy with the reader.
It was difficult to create me as the main character, to place the potential reader into my own head, to play it out in a way that would woo the reader to turn the page. In doing that, I learned even more about myself, how I viewed the world (sometimes in a warped way!), and what possible impact my journey might have on fellow strugglers.
Though I knew well the landscape, setting, and characters of my life, it proved difficult to give myself permission to truly delve in deeper, to re-feel my pain, angst, joy, frustration, anticipation, and worry. Once I let myself go there, the memoir progressed. And my editor helped me shape the book more chronologically, something for which I’m deeply thankful.
The end result is story: mine. It’s the story of a little girl who faced sexual abuse, neglect, drug-using parents, fear, death of a parent, and a host of other malevolence. And yet it’s a hope-filled story, where the bright light of God’s climactic redemption outshines the dark places. It’s a story of God’s nearness when I thought I’d nearly lose my mind and will to live. How grateful I am for the beautiful love of Jesus, how dearly He chose frail me to shame the wise. It’s really His story after all.
What trials did you face as a child?
Childhood sexual abuse at five
Parents with addictions
Feelings of being unwanted
An unsafe home
Death of a parent
It’s hard to write all that out and not feel bad for little me. But even in the recounting, I’ve been able to see the thin places in my life, those snatches of moments where God came near. That’s the message and hope of Thin Places, being able to see the nearness of God amidst heartache.
What compelled you to write Thin Places?
I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.
But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.
While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.
“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.
“You’ve given a gift,” he said.
I sure hope so.
In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?
In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.
Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.
What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?
I hope they see hope.
I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is.
I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.
Some folks wait until grandparents and parents are deceased until they write a memoir, but you wrote yours with some still alive. Was that difficult?
Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.
It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.
Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”
Thin Places is my answer to her quote.
But why go there? Why examine the past? Hasn’t the old passed away?
Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”
It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.
What encouragement or cautions do you have for those wanting to write their story?
First, prayerfully consider if this is something you need to do for therapy rather than publication. It’s very exposing to write a memoir. And sometimes we mistake the compelling feeling we have with publication. God sometimes calls us to write unpublished words, to get everything out on the page for the sake of our own personal healing.
Many of you have read memoirs that are self-indulgent or a poor-me fest. You need to evaluate whether you’re at a good place of healing before you embark on writing your story for everyone to read.
Do you worry that writing a memoir makes you out to be narcissistic?
Of course. Because I’m the main character! As I’ve edited, read and re-read the book, I’ve agonized over that. Now that the book’s released, I am resting. What’s done is done. And I honestly believe that the story isn’t about me. It’s about a rejuvenating God who stooped to rescue a needy, frail girl.
What fears have you battled as this book released?
Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!
I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.
I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies?
I love to cook and garden and sew and decorate and take pictures. I’m really quite a homebody. I also keep in shape by training for small triathlons, emphasis on small.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
This may sound strange, but I wanted to be a doctor. But even then, the writer in me came out because I liked the cadence of my maiden name with the title doctor. Mary Walker, Medical Doctor.
How did you get involved in writing?
I’ve been writing since college when the bug hit me. I wrote my first short story about a missionary going to Russia (when it was firmly encased behind the iron curtain) and having to do all these clandestine things to share the gospel. I’m embarrassed to write this, but the piece started with these four words: Thump, thump, thump, thump (representing the protagonist’s heartbeat, of course).
I’ve been actively writing since 1992 when my daughter Sophie was born. I created a newsletter that helped moms manage their homes. I bought my first computer from the proceeds. I also designed and edited church newsletters, wrote homeschooling curriculum, and even wrote a script for an ultrasound training video. Soon after, short stories started flying out of me. When we moved from East Texas to Dallas for my husband to go to Dallas Seminary, I decided to get serious. I met my friend Sandra Glahn then, a professor at the seminary and a published writer. She shepherded me through the query-letter-writing process and has been an incredible cheerleader.
In 2002, I wrote my first novel. In 2003, I signed with an agent, then signed two nonfiction books. Since then, I’ve had five books published (those included), Daisy Chain being my sixth book. The first novel I wrote is yet to be published.
How do you find time to write?
I make time to write. I give myself word count goals every day. While my children are at school, I work full time. Lately I’ve been writing and promoting like a crazy woman, pulling 10-12 hour shifts. Even so, it’s a priority for me to have a sit-down dinner with my family every night. It helps that I love to cook.
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I love the initial flurry of words on the page where I’m uninhibited. I love fleshing out a story as it comes to me. I see my novels on the movie screen of my mind, which may account for the visual nature of my narratives.
What was the most difficult aspect of the writing process?
I am not in love with rejection.
I also don’t cherish rewriting. But it’s a necessary and important evil.
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author?
Here’s the analogy you need to memorize and internalize: Beginning the publishing journey is like wearing a sweatshirt and toting a sack lunch at the base of Mount Everest, thinking, Hmm, this should be a breeze!
In addition: know you are called. Know you have talent. Know you’re full of tenacity. All three things will help you succeed along the journey.
Another idea is hang out at The Writing Spa and its corresponding blog WannabePublished. I tackle nearly every question a new writer would have. I offer weekly free critiques and I have guest authors cameo there. I evaluate the saleability of a book idea. Hop on by at http://www.thewritingspa.com.
Thin Places on Amazon
Thin Places: Writing Memoirs
By Mary DeMuth
I wrote Thin Places only after I gave myself permission to say it all. More on that later.
First, one clarification about memoir: no memoir can be 100% accurate. Every memoirist must recall, to the best of his/her ability what happened in the past. Only God knows what truly happened! And to protect the people listed in a memoir, I’ve changed names and distinguishing characteristics. That’s allowable in a memoir, and is often expected. To make a memoir work, it must be:
- From someone famous.
- Or a story so strong and surprising, the story carries the book.
I’m of the latter category since I am by no means famous. But my story is raw and redemptive. And a bit out there. Find out more about Thin Places here.
The most important thing for a memoir is that it be memorable and beautifully written. If you don’t have a platform, near perfect writing is a must backed up by an intriguing/surprising story. Think of a memoir as a novel with rising action, climax and denouement. Consider writing it as you would a novel, with characters, dialogue and a plot (even if the plot is your life!)
A great example of a memoir that tells an amazing story is Parting the Waters by Jeanne Damoff.
But even though the story is beautifully written, Jeanne shopped the story to every publishing house far and wide through her agent. Though it was a great story, she faced a lot of rejection.
Eventually, after much prayer and seeking wisdom, she decided to self-publish the book through WinePress. It’s got a wonderful cover and is selling well.
Another amazing memoir is Startling Beauty by wife Heather Gemmen. Wow. It’s one of the most beautifully written, achingly painful memoirs I’ve read.
It’s not easy to write a memoir. I fear that some people are so afraid to do it because the people involved aren’t yet dead. So they work on a fictionalized version. Is that really honest? What is the purpose of telling your true story if you make it fiction? Of course, you can take elements of your struggle and life and place that in fiction, but I’ve found that tacked on messages seldom make a book.
My best advice: obey God. Write what He tells you to write. If you’re too afraid to write a memoir, then don’t do it. Prayerfully consider whether your need to get it all out is, instead, a form of catharsis that no reader really needs to see. And if you add some of your story to the memoir, consider that story is the king. The story must support what you write about.
The unspeakable has been perpetrated against five-year-old Mary multiple times, along with threats of death to her and her parents if she tells. Her father died when she was 10, leaving her feeling abandoned. Her mother was ‘unavailable’ when she needed her, throughout all of her marriages and other relationships, leaving her feeling neglected. Her grandparents weren’t as loving to her as she thought. She spent much time alone, fearful of who was ‘out there’ to get her. She was lied to, stolen from, and not believed many of her years. She felt unloved, unlovable, unworthy to even be on the earth. She considered suicide for over a year, but a school counselor helped her through that year. She had years of envy due to a lack of the basics that made her feel as if she didn’t fit in with other kids. She had a large “daddy hole” in her heart through all the losses of her father and step-fathers.
What really pulled her through was a relationship with Jesus at the age of 15. Not that all things went perfect from that point on, but she has what she calls “’thin places,’ snatches of time, moments really, when she senses God intersecting her world in tangible, unmistakable ways. They are the ‘aha moments,’ beautiful realizations, when the Son of God bursts through the hazy fog of her monotony and shine on her afresh.” He came to Mary’s life and brought her healing. She will tell you how.
Thin Places, Mary’s memoir, was written for specific purposes. To help others find hope and reconciliation with God and family. To get the counseling help they need. Get people talking about their abuse to gain healing. Help the abused women gain insights to be a good mother. To find hope for herself, etc. It’s not an easy read, but press through and you will find poignant moments that you can relate to and find hope and healing in Jesus. This is a book on freedom and triumph!
Although the story seems to flit about for me, my take on it is that triggers don’t necessarily happen in chronological order. Push through. It’ll all make sense in the end.
If you suffer from abuse, please check out http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org, to anonymously share your family secrets.
I came to know Mary and her writing through reading Daisy Chain. Daisy Chain has two more sequels, one of which has already been published, A Slow Burn. Mary has a very in-depth manner of pulling you deep into her stories through touching the very core of the emotions of her characters and the intense suspense. I can hardly wait for the third book in this series!
This book was provided free by Mary through Zondervan as a review copy. These are my own opinions on the book. I blog for the love of sharing books I think can help others and provide the titles of books I consider worth your time to read. Thank you Mary and Zondervan.