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Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite
Under the Influence of Evil: A Brutally Abusive Childhood Exposed by Darlene Deacon is an autobiography about Darlene’s story of childhood sexual abuse and the subsequent effects. Under the Influence of Evil immediately grabs one's attention from page one, and then jumps to Darlene’s growing up years in New England, living with her mother, younger brother, her step-father, and the endless stream of her mother’s guy friends. Darlene’s mother suffers from psychological disorders and alcoholism, and turns a deaf ear to Darlene’s pleas for help. Darlene is repeatedly molested and raped by her step-father and ends up becoming the caregiver for her younger brother. Things get worse as she grows into her teenage years when her mother not only prostitutes herself, but her young daughter as well. Rape by multiple men combined with the abusive, neglectful, and violent atmosphere at home in Maine prompts Darlene to start living with the first guy that shows her sympathy at age 15. However, this slowly turns into a nightmare of abuse as well and an unfulfilled marriage. Things start turning around for Darlene when she finally sets off in search of her real father, and begins healing herself in her twenties.
Under the Influence of Evil: A Brutally Abusive Childhood Exposed is an extremely well written book that I thought was insightful and honest. Darlene writes about her horrific experiences in a matter-of-fact and mature manner, and indeed provides hope to other people in similar circumstances that life can be hopeful and can be turned around. A book like this also highlights the importance of recognizing the signs of sexual abuse in children, and ways of dealing with them because often the perpetrators are known family members or family friends. This is a courageous story and I applaud Darlene for being able to settle into a functional life in spite of her early experiences. This is a book that I would highly recommend to everyone.