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.
I have always been interested in psychology and the human psyche, so I couldn’t resist reading Leuschel’s Manipulated Lives. This intriguing book takes the form of five novella length stories, each focusing on a different perspective of somebody who has been subjected to manipulation.
Leuschel has created a good mix of age ranges in order to tell the tales and experiences of those who have found themselves to be on the receiving end of manipulation. There is an octogenarian, a thirty-year-old, a teenager and the mother of a grown-up son. I liked the scope of the stories and found the story about the teenager particularly pertinent as the issue of domestic abuse within teenage relationships is something that has been highlighted recently as prevalent. My only slight criticism is that none of the stories gave the perspective of a female manipulating a male. As domestic abuse does occur in heterosexual relationships in which the female is the abuser and thus uses manipulation techniques I personally would have liked to have seen this covered.
In The Narcissist Leuschel writes from the point of view of the manipulator and this adds a different layer to the book. Leuschel writes this particular story incredibly well, really taking you into the mind of the narcissist and their disturbing thought patterns.
It is clear that Leuschel has carefully researched narcissistic personality traits and human behaviour as the feelings and thoughts that come through the characters are insightful and intelligent. The story that really resonated with me was The Spell which focuses on the relationship between a young woman and an older man who has a child. As an ex-social worker I came across many men like David and it rang so true for me. She portrays really well the niggly feeling you get that something isn’t right but you can’t put your finger on what it is, the feeling that the stories they tell you don’t quite add up and the use of a child that often compels people to stay within these destructive relationships. Leuschel’s observations of the behaviours used by the abuser – making out they are the victim, rapid mood changes – are all accurately portrayed.
If you are wanting a book that explores the dark side of the human psyche that is both authentic in its approach but not difficult to understand or read check out Manipulated Lives. It is thought-provoking and chillingly accurate in its portrayal of manipulation in everyday life.
Published on 28 June 2016 by CreateSpace.
A huge thank you to H A Leuschel for the copy in exchange for my review.