Recently I was privileged to interview James Tobin, author of the novel “When We Were Wolves.” Without giving too much away, one theme of the story is a adult male survivor of sexual abuse, Tom, coming to terms with his past and the perpetrator, a revered figure in his hometown. He deals with revealing his experience to his family, friends and community, in the face of opposition and disbelief. I found myself in the story as Tom and those around him deal with the myriad emotions and reactions to the news. There are no simple answers here. Rather the messiness of real life. Yet it is a story of courage, hope and healing.

James drew from his own experience as a survivor as well as extensive research and his experience as a psychologist in his portrayal of the characters and various components of the book.  The cases of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby raised some of the questions explored in the story.  Who are heroes?  What do we do when heroes betray us, commit heinous acts and turn out to be predators?  What is a hero? His characters grapple with these questions.

Wrestling with memories

  The book also looks at how one wrestles with memories of abuse.  We watch the main character, Tom, come to terms with his abuse and finds his way to healing.  We see other survivors choose different paths to deal with their experiences.

 When We Were Wolves explores confronting evil and choosing how to respond.  Do we do the right thing even when our actions will change the lives of others, hurt some of those we love, damage reputation and career?  Can we do the right thing when it is hard?  These compelling questions without simple answers are presented in the complexity in the story.

Survivor means to live on

I asked James what he would like to say to survivors:

“You are not alone…There are lots of us and just because people don’t talk about it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”..Survivor is a French word, which means to live onI think the best thing that a survivor can do is to live on, to live their life as fully and meaningfully as possible. And one of the ways is by speaking out, because the more we speak out as survivors the more we tell people who we are, and how we lived on and lived fully.  …And so the more we talk about it the more we can prevent it, because most people still think that predator is someone who, you know has that trench coat and that hat and stops you on the street and says a kid you want a piece of candy. That is completely wrong. It actually makes it more difficult to prevent child sexual abuse because we miss the real people out there who are doing this..

And so, I would like, readers and their ally survivors and the Allies to understand that they need to talk more. They need to say I’m not to blame this is I was preyed upon. I think the more they can do that the better it is for not only them, but for our society. So that’s what I want readers to get.

You can find out more about James at this website https://www.jetobin.com/.  The book is available for purchase on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and palehorsebooks.com. All royalties go to charity https://preventchildabuse.org/.


I’d love to hear from you with suggestions of other books you have found helpful, nonfiction or fiction.  Please leave them in the comments below or email me at mikedavis@weekendsofrecovery.org.

Be well. Stay safe. Take good care.

Mike

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