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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
“We are in this world to climb life’s mountains...” states Tracy Stopler through her fictional self, Tali, in her unique, based-on-fact novel, The Ropes That Bind. Tali believes that we feel our best “when we overcome obstacles” because in the “middle of life’s difficulties lies an opportunity for personal growth.” As a victim of child sexual abuse, I couldn’t agree with her more, and it was insights like this that spoke most loudly to me in Stopler’s unusual approach to writing what is, at its core, a memoir. The opening chapter of The Ropes That Bind is a frightening, heart-stopping account of a 9-year-old ignoring parental warnings about stranger danger. For the next several decades of her life, Tali battles the memories, protects the abuser with her silence, is fearful of trusting herself and others, is obsessed with details of similar kidnappings and abuse, and constantly searches for love and peace.
Her search finds her climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, studying the Kabbalah, and exploring the beliefs and practices of her Jewish roots. For me, the depth given this exploration was an unexpected, but interesting inclusion. But ultimately, it was the challenges Tali gave herself as part of her ongoing search for the self-love critical to the mental and spiritual recovery of abuse victims that resonated most loudly with me. Ultimately, her story is a success story, though as all abuse victims know, one may forgive but one never forgets. Stopler punctuates her story-telling with a timeline of world events, developments around HIV, and statistics on child abuse. Included at the end of the book is an author interview that is fascinating and offers further insight into important characters in the story and why Tracy Stopler chose to write her book as fiction based on a memoir. This may be very interesting to other abuse victims who are considering writing a memoir and are unsure about an approach. Highly recommended reading for many reasons!