THE OTHER SIDE by Lacy Johnson

Boy, I am really gravitating toward heavy books these days. The most recent was The Other Side, a memoir by Lacy Johnson about an abusive relationship that resulted in a kidnapping and rape. The memoir is a raw, deeply honest account of Johnson’s relationship with the man who assaulted her, as well as the trauma she experienced in the years that followed.

Why I picked it up: I learned about The Other Side on an episode of Beyond Bookstagram on Sarah’s Bookshelves Live. It was paired with a more well-known book – I can’t remember which – and a number of people in the group recommended it.

This is a harrowing memoir about Johnson, a 21 year-old woman who gets involved with her Spanish professor during college. He’s much older than she is, as well as domineering, moody, unpredictable and sometimes violent. They live and travel together, during which time Johnson grows increasingly uncomfortable with how he treats her. After a particularly harrowing trip to Europe, she decides to leave him. He stalks her (and her friends) for months, pleads with her to come back to him, and ultimately tricks her into getting into his car, where he overpowers her and kidnaps and assaults her in a soundproofed room he has prepared for this purpose.

The Other Side jumps around from before the final assault and the horrific hours during and immediately after, to the years and relationships that followed. Johnson tries to process and get past the attack – often engaging in self-destructive behavior – and she doesn’t hold back at all in this memoir. It’s a brave and messy, sometimes scattered, but always honest and compelling. Just like recovery, the memoir is not linear, and it conveys very effectively the lasting effects of trauma on many aspects of victims’ lives.

There are many triggers with this book – assault, rape, emotional and physical abuse – but if you can tolerate them, it’s a disturbing but courageous and memorable book.

The Other Side was the 41st book of 2023.