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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Learning to Love Myself: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-discovery After Abuse is a non-fiction memoir written by Viga Boland. It is the second book in Boland's No Tears for My Father memoir series. The author's father physically abused her and her mother when she was growing up, but from the time she was 11 years old, he began to sexually abuse her as well. Viga and her mother lived in fear of a father and husband who could turn violent and abusive with little or no provocation. When she became a teenager, Viga was kept isolated from her peers, and she was kept as what she describes as a 'second wife' until she was 24 years old. She had become a teacher in a local Catholic school and fell in love with one of the other teachers there, an Australian named John Boland. When she nervously brought up the subject of John's asking for her hand in marriage, she was surprised by her father's lack of outrage; however, one week later, he cast her out of his house. Viga lived with the horrific memories of his abuse for forty years before opening up to her family, who encouraged her to write her story.
Viga Boland's non-fiction memoir, Learning to Love Myself: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-discovery After Abuse is powerful and compelling reading. I had trouble getting my head around the awful reality of her childhood and her resulting sense of guilt and shame. But seeing where Boland goes after that very troubling start in life is so inspirational and transcendent. Boland is a marvelous and fiercely honest writer who tells her story with candor and frankness, and her style makes you soon begin to see her as a friend and to admire her courage, imagination and tenacity. I loved the photographs and poems she includes in Learning to Love Myself. Seeing the photos of John and Viga growing together and raising their children, and looking at their houses which she describes so well, brought her story even closer. And while I did wonder how they could ever have left that house by the beach, I found myself applauding each new challenge and adventure they had taken on. Learning to Love Myself: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-discovery After Abuse is a remarkable achievement, and I recommend it most highly.