Anyone who knows me- even if it’s only through this blog- knows I like to read. A lot. I’ve read 79 books in the past 7 months, so a real lot. My taste skews towards fantasy- fairies, vampires, demons- I’m usually all in for anything in that genre. I don’t usually read crime stories or mysteries- heck, I don’t even watch the news. I much prefer the make-believe monsters, because usually they are a lot less scarier then the real life monsters.
Many, many moons ago when I got engaged, I joined a wedding planning website and hung out on a message board full of brides getting married the same month I was. One of those brides was Shonna who married her husband, Travis, the same day the Hubs and I got married. 16 years later, we’ve stayed friends. She’s seen me at my lowest, knows crazy details about my family and has cheered me during my successes.
I’ve had the privilege of watching Shonna’s career flourish when she published her first book in 2011 and have seen how well Travis’s career as a signer/song writer has taken off. This is one seriously talented couple with huge hearts, a wicked sense of humor and unparalleled compassion.
Shonna’s latest book, Dirt Roads and Diner Pies, was released this summer and, frankly, it’s not a book I’d typically pick up because it deals with the real life monsters that I’d like to pretend didn’t exist. But, I love Shonna so I happily started to read it out of of loyalty to her.
What I didn’t expect was to love this book. I didn’t expect to be sucked in and I didn’t expected to be moved to tears and laughter.
When Travis was a child, he had the opportunity to attend the American Boychoir School in NJ. If you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll know this school and its talented students from the Kodak commercial featuring the choir signing Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. While at the school, Travis was repeatedly sexual abused by those in charge. He and his fellow classmates were forced to both endure and witness the abuse for years.
In her book, Shonna details how her marriage started to unravel under the stress as Travis started to remember and deal with the details of his time at the school. Travis is a successful musician, a reiki master and an animal whisperer- but he still sleeps with a body pillow between him and his wife with a machete by his head. He doesn’t like to be touched and rarely sleeps through the night. Travis has been diagnosed with a host of mental illnesses and battles through his demons on a daily basis.
And sometimes? Sometimes- hell, a lot of the time- that is really hard on a marriage and a spouse. Dirt Roads and Diner Pies details Travis and Shonna’s road trip one winter as they try to reclaim their marriage and find their solid ground. It’s unflinchingly honest- both in its humor and the scariest aspects of Travis’s abuse and aftermath. I inhaled this book in under a day even though I already know most of the story from our years of friendship.
In a perfect world, monsters don’t really exist and all children are cherished and adored. But this isn’t a perfect world. Shonna’s books shows us not only that the monsters are real- but that the monsters can be defeated. It’s not easy and it takes guts, grace and strength – but the monsters don’t have to win. Travis is a shining example of that, as is the life he and Shonna are making together.
Bottom line- read the book. Give the victims a voice and educate yourself on the startling statistics around sexual abuse. The monsters can only live in the dark- and this book shines the light right on them, their devastating affects and the resilient human spirit that refuses to stay down and let the monsters win.