Manipulated Lives by H. A. Leuschel
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Published June 28th, 2016
Genres: Short Stories, Psychology, Fiction, Adult
* Received this copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions are, as always, my own.*
Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
First of all, I have to say that this book made me very happy for different reasons. First, because it was the first book I got a physical copy of, and for that a big thank you to the author!! And secondly, because although I really enjoyed the synopsis, I didn’t expect this book to take such a toll on me!
This book was fantastic. It’s constituted of 5 short-stories about 5 different lives that were touched, by manipulators. I will talk about each of them individually.
Tess and Tattoos
In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure if I would like this story since it’s more difficult for me to see the perspective of an old person than for example a teenager. But it really surprised how much I could relate to her in certain things.
This story is passed in a retirement home. Our main character Tess is a really good person that feels lonely and upset about her life. Because of a manipulative person, her life was really different from what it could have been and in the end she ended up alone because she protected the manipulator and turned away who actually wanted her good.
This story was incredibly emotional. I really liked Tess and how strong a person she was. I could really see how she felt and how big a difference her life could have been. I also loved Sandra (one of the caretakers) and how she dedicated herself to help others because sometimes people only need a friendly shoulder. She did what many wouldn’t do and should, she listened to Tess, she was there for her. I loved her.
The story was really well structured and it talked about abuse in a very intriguing and deep way. Also, I didn’t expect it to be this realistic and heartbreaking.
This one is even more enthralling than the last one. I literally felt my heart racing with the story. It’s gripping and it made me feel exactly like the main character.
This one is about Sophie. I really don’t wanna say much about this one because I went not knowing anything and although it’s fairly easy to guess the end, it almost fooled me. But that didn’t make it any less powerful. And although I couldn’t necessarily relate to any of the characters, I cared immensely for them.
It’s realistic, heartbreaking and extremely well constructed. It scared me how realistic it was. I really cared for Leo, he is just a kid and his life is in the middle of a very sad situation, but I was happy that he had Sophie. I could really feel her emotions, worries, and love for him. How genuine it was! It broke my heart…
This story shows how easy it is to get into a manipulator’s hands and how one can lose themselves to it. It also shows in an amazing way that we should never only hear one side of the story, and how that can change everything, even if it’s the most believable thing ever. Definitely one of my favorite stories.
When I started this one, I actually didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t this for sure. This story surprised the crap out of me. This is for sure my favorite of them all! It started so simply that I didn’t even see it coming.
This story is about a teenager named Holly and how it’s so easy to manipulate others masking it as love. It’s in some ways similar to the last one, which is maybe why I loved it so much, but in others very different.
It’s about how we always are surprised, how we tend to believe, to be blind to what is behind pretty words. Not only but especially as a teenager! It also shows how scary it can be! I was actually scared for Holly…
I absolutely loved how the main character managed to finally see the reality and act on it. I also loved the friendship in this book and more than that the relationship between Holly and her mom. To see it change and get stronger. It was heartwarming in such a heartbreaking story.
This was a hard-hitting one. It was not a character I could connect at all but it was definitely a very interesting perspective. Our main character is actually the manipulator. He is a narcissist and we are able to see how he thinks. We also see the consequences of that for him and for others, and his realisation of it.
Although this is mainly his POV, we also have his daughter’s and a psychiatrist’s POV. The story is incredibly well detailed and for sure took a lot of research, but it turned out realistic and just wow.
I didn’t even know what to think reading his POV, I couldn’t understand him, it was actually even repulsive. He was an absolute jerk and it’s very difficult to put in mind that these people don’t see the world like the majority do. They don’t see what is wrong and right the same way. My mind was really having a difficult time to wrap around this. Especially because if there’s something I love, it’s psychology and understanding minds that work in a completely different way, especially criminals.
The Perfect Child
I really like this type of stories. Although I haven’t read any quite like this. It’s a bit similar to Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick. It’s about a child that is extremely manipulative and narcissistic.
But in this book we see not only what the child thinks but also the mom and her realization of what’s going on and how everything turned out so wrong. I love this type of stories because it’s really difficult to accept that a child can be like this since generally, we see them as innocent and incapable of harm. But they can, and this story shows exactly that!
I really like the mom’s perspective and the reason why the child turned out to be like he is. It’s quite heartbreaking and it infuriated me at times because it’s so natural to want to protect our child the best we can but yet we have to let them live too. And the balance between those is a bit tricky to gather.
But I especially liked how the mother changed after seeing the truth because I still don’t know if it’s that possible to feel so distant, but hopefully, in certain things, it is.
I really liked how much each of these short stories could be so overwhelming and emotional. They are so tiny and yet so well constructed! They really showed the manipulated aspect of lives, ways it can happen, and how it can happen to anyone.
The book was really well written and researched and I would for sure read more and more of this. They are sad, dark and heartbreaking and I guess that’s what makes it so gripping! I found psychology fascinating and this book explores part of it very well.
The stories although all around the same theme were really different and ranged all ages and types of persons and POVs. It’s a fantastic collection and I couldn’t recommend it more. Although this is not a thriller, I think especially people that like psychological thrillers will like this book a lot.
Do you like books that explore psychological themes? Have you read this yet? What’s your favorite short story? Let’s discuss it in the comments below!