Love Isn’t Always the Answer
by Shelley L. Levisay
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir
Print Length: 190 pages
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
Content warnings: domestic abuse
A bold account of abuse at the hands of a first love
Shelley Levisay experienced many wins in both her professional and academic life, but her personal life seemed to be lacking.
Friends and romantic relationships didn’t come easy, and a sort of desperation led her into the arms of a man with some serious issues.
It didn’t take much for him to wrap her around his finger, and once there, she realized the harsh truth that sometimes being single is better than being in a relationship.
In just a few months, Shelley’s life is turned upside down. She loses some of the few friends she has, her independence, and the career she worked so hard for. Love Isn’t Always the Answer is a collection of red flags experienced by an accomplished woman blinded by the idea of love.
Levisay tackles a sensitive subject with confidence in Love Isn’t Always the Answer. Leaving few details to spare, she narrates her time in her first romantic relationship which ended up being extremely abusive. As a woman in her 30s, a faithful Christian, and an accomplished litigator, not many would expect her to be convicted of a felony for harboring a fugitive. Yet, that’s where this road ultimately takes her. With a hope to teach others about the red flags she ignored, Levisay lays it all out there in a way that victims of abuse will relate to and that other readers may be able to learn something from.
One of my favorite things about this book is how Levisay writes so honestly about herself and the situation, even when it doesn’t paint her in a positive light. It creates a kind of trust between her and the readers that I think they will appreciate. Anyone who has been in a toxic relationship can admit the faults they had in it eventually, but to put those faults into writing is a different kind of self-awareness. It was her desperation that led her to such a dark place, and admitting that was the only way that she could find her way out of it.
After we are given a brief background of Levisay’s life before her relationship, we’re quickly thrown into a list of accounts of her abuse and misgivings. We soon learn about all the money she had to spend on him, the cars she bought, the apartments and hotel rooms she rented, the ways she helped his family, and the abuse she suffered. She speaks briefly of the start of her relationship and dives headfirst into the worst of it. We’re then shuffled into chapters that share some of the worst times of her life up until about halfway through the book. After a while, it can feel too much like a list of the terrible things that happened, and it can be a little hard hard to get through.
I felt relief when we got to the court scenes in the second half of the book, as I was curious how Levisay would narrate her time post-relationship and how the story would evolve after so much turmoil. But the second half of the story is almost entirely court scenes and the dialogue that went on in them. After getting so much information in the first half of the book, it feels a bit repetitive to then go over it all again in a court setting.
Love Isn’t Always the Answer is a success in its ability to lay out some harsh truths and the ways in which real friends show up when they’re needed.
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