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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Extinguished Hope by Kendra Bell-Hayes is not an easy read. Few stories of child abuse are. This isn't the author's own story. It is one she has kindly offered to write for the protagonist, Michael, who cannot write this story himself. As she tells us in the acknowledgements, taking on this task left Kendra Bell-Hayes herself "a little bit fragile and sad" and grateful for her family who "managed to cheer" her back up with their "loving touches." Those loving touches are something young Michael never had once his mother put him in a boarding school in Bindoon, Western Australia, a school that left a young boy and many of his classmates with no hope of ever having a normal happy life once they left the school. What a tragic tale.
Some years after the death of Michael's beloved biological father through electrocution, his mother remarried. Michael's stepfather, an abusive alcoholic, moved them to a farm and life changed dramatically for this once happy-go-lucky, somewhat impish boy. At 11 years of age, his mother was advised to put Michael in the Bindoon school to improve his reading skills. But the education Michael got at Bindoon had little to do with academic pursuits. The religious brothers running the school were cruel, sadistic and sexually depraved, and used the poorer students for their own pleasures. Michael tried to escape a couple of times, but was caught and punished so severely that he suffered physically well into adulthood.
But his physical suffering was secondary to the mental anguish, so severe that even if he'd had good writing skills, it's unlikely he could have written his story. It is wonderful that Kendra Bell-Hayes wrote it for him, as the truth about what went on at Bindoon must be revealed. This story is so riveting and heartbreaking. Read Extinguished Hope if you dare, but prepare to be rattled, even shocked at how self-serving adults can extinguish a child's hope of happiness.