Review - The Blood on My Hands, Shannon O'Leary
THE BLOOD ON MY HANDS is a very personal story, told by Shannon O'Leary, recounting a childhood that truly could be said was hellish. A violent, mentally ill father, an extended family wrapped up in concern about their "good name", vicious or uncaring authorities, and police neglect that is positively staggering, combine in this tale to create a story that's incredibly difficult to read.
When reviewing this book it's really important to stress that the review is not of the life, or the story itself. This is somebody's truth, a woman's life and what happened is utterly horrific.
This is a story which must have taken guts to tell as it attempts to cast light on domestic violence. A scourge that continues to plague our communities and will have done much earlier than the 1960s and 1970s that this book covers. If, for a moment, any reader has any doubts whatsoever of the depths to which some perpetrators can sink, and the damage and outcomes that victims carry with them for the rest of their lives then read THE BLOOD ON MY HANDS.
Given how incredibly difficult the subject matter is in this story - and O'Leary doesn't pull many punches about what happened - the style of writing makes it very approachable. Even when the reader is physically repulsed, or fighting off a raging anger at the neglect and dismissiveness of people who knew - it's a difficult story to put down. Which makes for a decidedly confronting experience - something that's incredibly difficult to read, whilst being something incredibly difficult to put down.
It's important that we understand the outcomes of domestic and family violence. It's important that we are reminded of causes as well as outcomes. It's important that we remember there's a reason for the increased focus and concentration on support and providing victims with options now. It's equally important that we tackle the multiple questions around perpetrator motivation. A searing book, THE BLOOD ON MY HANDS is not a book that you can possibly say you're going to enjoy, but it's one that's guaranteed to stay with you.
Set in 1960s and '70s Australia, "The Blood on My Hands" is the dramatic tale of Shannon O'Leary's childhood years. O'Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.
The responses of those whom O'Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family's good name, nuns condemn the child's objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.
"The Blood on My Hands" is a heartbreaking-yet riveting-narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.