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Book Review: Fear of Our Father, by Stacey Kananen

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Sarah has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and works as a manager of communications for a multinational risk management company.

In Fear of Our Father, Stacey Kananen candidly tells the true story of her journey from abused child to murder suspect, labels she had no agency in receiving. From very young ages, Stacey and her two siblings, Cheryl and Richard, were abused by their father (whom they called “the nightmare”) while their abused mother stood by, unable to do anything to help them. The abuse finally stopped when one day, their father simply disappeared. Relief from his absence passed over the family and they went on with their lives without reporting that he went missing. Then, fifteen years later, their mother went missing too.

Fear of Our Father details Stacey’s pain and strength during these events, and her confusion thereafter when new facts about her missing parents slowly began to come to light. Stacey’s brother admitted to killing their father and then to killing their mother, which was, in and of itself, a horrific truth. The story got more complicated when he told Stacey that her mother’s body was in her own backyard and then implicated her in the crimes. This book explains Stacey’s trek from concerned ignorance of her parents’ whereabouts to an all-too-clear set of facts woven throughout fictive stories created by her brother, stories that pointed the finger directly at her.

The emotional book is written by a woman with a clear and sound mind whose ability to communicate her feelings and thoughts during tough times is astounding. The heartbreaking honesty that saved her from a life sentence for a murder she did not commit against her own beloved mother drives Fear of Our Father, making it an easy and enlightening read. Stacey’s earnest truthfulness comes across naturally and makes it distressfully clear how a person could be shoved into such a dark entanglement of lies, fighting for her own life.

Despite the abuse and lies, Stacey’s heart remained big and her smile wide. Even in this book, in which she lays private and painful details on the table, she continues to profess her love for her brother and stand up for him despite his false accusations against her. She says, “It bothered me that people thought of Rickie as a ‘ne’er do well.’ They didn’t know him as a person and were making judgments about him with practically no information. While I was angry with him in a way that words can’t express for killing our mother and implicating me in it, he was still my big brother, whom I loved. The mixed feelings I felt for him, and still feel for him, are one of the hardest things to deal with. He wasn’t a ‘ne’er-do-well’; he was mentally ill!”

This openness extends to her feelings about the other players in the tangled plot, as well, including her sister, of whose support she was deprived, Detective Hussey, the policeman whose elementary investigation into the accusations against her is enraging (and who is now married to her sister), Stacey’s partner, Susan, who stood by her side through the thick of it (there was no thin), her talented attorney Diana, the people at the nudist colony where she worked who stood up for her, and many, many others. Stacey characterises each person’s role in what happened to her without bitterness or gushing love, but with undeniable authenticity.

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Stacey’s candid tone is consistent throughout the entire book, and the lucidity with which she was able to put the story on the page, with the help of co-author Lisa Bonnice, is astounding. The details of her dramatic life are incredible to read, and each twist and turn could probably fill its own book. Fear of Our Father is a quick and exciting read, full of eye-opening insights about human nature, the truth, and mistakes.

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