Rachel Louise Snyder’s most recent memoir – Woman We Buried, Woman We Burned – is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed book No Visible Bruises. The book is an account of Synder’s journey from teenage runaway to award-winning journalist.
The often heartbreaking account begins with the death of the author’s mother, when Snyder was eight years old. Not long after, her father got remarried, instantly doubling the size of the family. Snyder describes these changes as “the emotional earthquake of a completely new family.” This new family, with Snyder in tow, relocated to a new house across America; and into a religious cult-like existence.
The rebellious Snyder was eventually thrown out of the house by her father; though, perhaps out of guilt, continues to help her. What followed was a lot of moving around and a lot of self-discovery, experimentation and trauma. Synder recounts her experiments with drugs, the discovery of her sexuality and her experiences with domestic abuse. Eventually Snyder relocates to Cambodia and trains to be a journalist. There she interviews people who have endured the unfathomable.
Themes of forgiveness, perseverance and tolerance permeate through the book. Snyder talks about forgiving her father, and needing to forgive so as not to breed more hatred. There’s also a lot of examples of nurturing and loving figures in Snyder’s life – teachers, counsellors, co-workers and her Grandparents are all credited with helping her find a safer path.
Initially I had trouble getting into the book. But, after a handful of chapters, something clicked and before I knew it I was almost at the end. I found it be a well-written memoir; with some wonderfully descriptive writing. You could almost feel the humidity in the air during Snyder’s recounting of her life in Cambodia for example. I also found Snyder’s story didn’t always go the direction I was expecting.
I wish I had been able to read more about Snyder’s brother and stepbrothers. Just to hear how their lives turned out. But, can understand why they may not have been included.
Well written and engaging, Women We Buried, Women We Burned is not only the story of a strong woman, of a survivor, but also a tale of perseverance and tolerance that will move the reader.