This was a hard review to write as this is a true story, Shannon O’Leary’s story and who am I to say what worked well and what didn’t, the plot of her younger years was decided for her and she chose to share her story with us and for that I am grateful.
Set in 1960s and ’70s Australia, “The Blood on My Hands” is the dramatic tale of Shannon O’Leary’s childhood years. O’Leary grew up under the shadow of horrific domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse, and serial murder. Her story is one of courageous resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors.
The responses of those whom O’Leary and her immediate family reach out to for help are almost as disturbing as the crimes of her violent father. Relatives are afraid to bring disgrace to the family’s good name, nuns condemn the child’s objections as disobedience and noncompliance, and laws at the time prevent the police from interfering unless someone is killed.
“The Blood on My Hands” is a heartbreaking-yet riveting-narrative of a childhood spent in pain and terror, betrayed by the people who are supposed to provide safety and understanding, and the strength and courage it takes, not just to survive and escape, but to flourish and thrive.
“I have felt the cold steel of a gun in my mouth and against my temple.”
From the opening line of the prologue, I knew this was going to be a book that would evoke deep emotions of sadness and anger in me. To say I enjoyed this book somehow seems wrong, so what I will say is, I was deeply moved by O’Leary’s story.
I don’t often read autobiographies but I’m drawn to these books because no matter how many I read, I have to know how and why these events were able to occur with no one intervening. I despair at the systems in place, failing these young people they were meant to protect. O’Leary’s father clearly has some serious mental health problems, undiagnosed and untreated, he reigned down terror on his entire family. At times when I was reading about certain incidents, I was so outraged, I wanted to go back in time and shout ‘why isn’t anyone doing anything!’ The strength, courage and resilience Shannon and her mother displayed was inspiring, the strength and bond of this mother and daughter truly moved me. There were brief flecks of happiness in this book but they were few and far between, you need some emotional strength to read this book as some of the details are horrific and will make you wish this book was fictional.
It’s hard to talk about the flow and pace of this book because Shannon didn’t get to choose the pace and flow of her life. My only criticism, if you can call it that, is the ending, for the simple fact, that I would have liked Shannon to expand a bit more on life after escaping her father, for selfish reasons, I wanted to read more about Shannon’s happier adult life, if only to erase the trauma of her childhood from my mind. The book does jump from event to event, with gaps missing but again who am I to criticise, I’m hoping these time-gaps were filled with happy times and they were so few and far between that Shannon wanted to keep them all to herself but I fear that wasn’t the case.
Overall, this is a deeply moving book, one I highly recommend. It will open your eyes to the cruelties that exist behind closed doors and shock you that even sometimes when the door opens, no help arrives. Domestic violence is as real today as it was back then and although laws are changing, and people are becoming more aware, there are still thousands of children suffering in silence. Thank you, Shannon, for your bravery in sharing your story with us.
*My thanks to Kelsey at Book Publicity Services for providing me with a copy of this book*
I have one copy of The Blood on My Hands to giveaway, to enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post letting me know you’d like to read this book and where in the UK I’d been sending it (eg. I want to read this book, send it to Manchester)
Giveaway closes at midnight on the 8th February, the winner will be contacted shortly after. This competition is open to UK residents only and you must be following my blog or Instagram to enter. If you’ve arrived at this giveaway via Instagram, please leave your Instagram username in your comment so I know who you are.