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A debut memoir recounts the details of a harrowing, brutal rape and the author’s difficult path to recovery.

When Morehouse (a rape counselor at the time) returned to her townhouse in Edmonds, Washington, one night in May 1993, she had no idea that the next few hours would permanently change her life. She took her terrier-poodle mix, Puka, out for a walk, finished counting the proceeds from the coffee shop she owned and climbed into bed. The next thing she remembered was lying face down on the floor of her bedroom, a man’s knee digging into her back, and his first words: “Shut up! We’re going to kill you!” Then she felt something sharp piercing her shoulder. What followed were hours of torment. The 21-year-old assailant pounded her head on the floor and against furniture, cut her with his knife, and raped her repeatedly while threatening to murder her. Finally, while he was looking for her cash, Morehouse was able to find her gun. Battered as she was, she took command of the situation, firing shots at the man later identified as Allan Ray Chesnutt and forcing him to lie on the floor until the police arrived. She had caught the serial rapist who had been plaguing the area. She was hailed as a “hero,” but this brought her no comfort: “Being labeled a hero was almost as hard as being labeled a victim—I just wanted my life back.” It would take years of therapy and several unhealthy relationships before she regained control of her life.

In an account at once deeply personal and starkly specific, Morehouse relates each moment of the assault with riveting and frightening clarity. Readers will breathe a sigh of relief when the police arrive to find Chesnutt doubled over on the bathroom floor with the author holding her gun on him. But the heart of the book is yet to come. It rests in the many steps—and mistakes— of her long journey back to self-confidence and self-reliance. It is chilling to watch her become involved in a series of emotionally abusive relationships. For her, at that stage, it was more terrifying to be alone: “Many times after the attack I believed there was nothing I could do to change things, I just allowed them to happen. I allowed myself to be victimized which kept me immersed in a victim mentality; helpless, needy and vulnerable.” Morehouse’s prose is fluid, but she has a proclivity for run-on sentences and a heavy, sometimes-bewildering use of commas where periods are needed: “My attacker lay face down on the powder room floor, his hand clutched his head, I saw this as my opportunity to make it to the door.” Still, once engaged in the compelling narrative, readers will likely forget the minor inconvenience of filling in their own full stops.

A brave and honest account that illuminates the trauma suffered by rape survivors and their loved ones.

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