Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Shadows of Nikki

By Christine D. Patterson

It was once said  that “child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.” There are thousands of children being abused or neglected every year. While there are systems and policies in place to protect the children, sadly too many slip through the cracks and are either returned to or left in abusive situations or simply never receive the help, protection and love that they so desperately need.

When author Christine Patterson met a troubled young woman called “Nikki,” she had no idea the tremendous impact it would have on her life. In an effort to make the public aware of the tragedies that plague the system, using personal journals and government documents, Patterson takes her readers back over four decades in her new book The Shadows of Nikki. It is here that the sad and horrifying story of a little girl named Nikki begins.

Adopted from overseas in what appears to have been an illegal adoption, little Nikki first came to live with the Taylors at a very young age. In a family with many children, possibly 10-12, initially it appears Nikki was lost in the crowd and blessedly overlooked. Struggling with the language barrier she soon made friends with one little girl she called “Little Sister.” Horrible sounds and screams fill their nights as the other children would be beaten mercilessly. One tragic night Little Sister was severely beaten by Mrs. Taylor. Horribly sick and in pain, Little Sister is taken away by Nikki’s older brothers and sisters and never seen nor mentioned again.

Nikki’s childhood was filled with repeated physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect at the hands of her adopted parents. She was bounced back and forth through the system, being alternatively placed in foster homes, Juvenile Hall or back at home with the Taylors. A series of tragedies mark Nikki’s life: at a young age she was removed from the Taylors and placed for three years with a family who welcomed, cared for and protected the young girl. At the end of three years she was removed from the home and given back to her parents due to State law. As a teenager, it was difficult to find a loving home due to her age. A variety of group homes did not work out and Nikki ended up spending most of her teen years in institutions such as Juvenile Hall.

This is a difficult book to read. The subject of child abuse and the effect it has on children’s lives as they become adults should never be easy or comfortable. The author wisely placed warnings on several chapters noting that the material within the chapter was graphic and not suitable for those under 18.

Aside from the subject material, the author’s personal comments were difficult to read as well. Primarily because of her outrage, it would seem, attention was not focused on grammatical or punctuation rules. This may well have been intentional given that part of the theme was the question of insanity. Overall, The Shadows of Nikki is a dark book that effectively draws much needed attention to the very real problem of child abuse.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase The Shadows of Nikki

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