Domestic Violence – heavy subject. I certainly enjoy a good dysfunctional family, but domestic violence makes me very uncomfortable. Knowing this, I dug into Loretta Stinson’s Little Green anyway and I’m glad I did. Ms. Stinson, in her first novel, drew me in right away to a world that is completely foreign to me with her tale of young Janie Mareck’s search for herself, family and love.
Janie Mareck is an abandoned 16 year old. Her mother died and her father remarried. Her father died and his wife wanted nothing to do with Janie, so she dropped out of school and skipped town. The year is 1976, after the huge explosion of drugs in the 60′s, but apparently they are alive and well, in fact flourishing, in many communities. Janie finds herself briefly topless dancing in a country bar and when she tries to move on she is brutally raped and beaten by some random dude who picked her up in a van. She returns to the bar where she is taken in by one of the owners (a good guy) and nursed back to health.
While recovering she gets to know Paul – a handsome, fun, 26 year old guy who seems to treat her well and helps bring her back to life. Paul has a little (HUGE) problem. He likes to drink a lot of beer, smoke a lot of pot and inject a lot of crank into his veins. When he is really high, which becomes more and more frequent, guess what he does to poor Janie? He never remembers beating her, he apologizes and Janie “knows” that with enough love from her he will change. He says he’ll change, he certainly will with her help.
Janie and Paul go back and forth between “I want to change, baby” to feeling like he has to escape from Janie. Right before putting Janie in the hospital with a baseball bat, Janie has pretty much given in:
Janie knew she stayed now because she was afraid to leave. Paul could easily kill her when he was high and not even remember it later. There was nowhere to go where he wouldn’t find her. He told her that every time he was wired or drunk. He whispered in her ear, so close she could taste the crank on him, “If you ever left me I’d find you. I’d kill you before I let you leave me.” She no longer doubted that they would become one of these TV new reports. It was only a matter of time.
From the hospital however, Janie calls her old friend (the former owner of the bar) who is clean and living a respectable life with his wife and baby. Janie is lovingly nursed back to health and with the support, love and strength from these friends, Janie finds the courage to do what is needed for her survival.
I found myself throughout the novel giving advice to Janie and wishing Paul dead! Every other page I hoped he would die. Not having a lot of personal experience with domestic violence or drug use/abuse, I have read quite a bit about it trying to understand how women are attracted to these men and how they can stay. Frequently, women go back to their abusers because they are convinced that eventually the men will change, or the abuser threatens to kill them or themselves.
Drugs don’t help this situation at all. Like a lot of addicts, the high is so incredible there is nothing more important. Every time Paul warmed up that crank and prepared his arm and needle, I cringed, while wishing him dead. Every time he is high he admits to himself that he could never give it up – not for anyone.
I did find Ms. Stinson’s writing to be a bit choppy. There are a lot of very short sentences that just didn’t seem to flow for me each time I started to read, however, once I got going there was a rhythm to it. Certainly not a deal breaker in this case.
Little Green is no blissful escape – it is brutal reality for some people, but like Janie I hope they all can find their voice and the strength to survive.