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February Book Review

Something Powerful to Consider

By Gini Rainey

“Sister Secrets: A Brother’s Reveal” by Matthew Valan

This book is an interesting delve into the memories of a family torn apart by the mental illnesses of two of the author’s sisters. Set in the farmlands of western Minnesota and neighboring North Dakota, Valan began writing this book with the intention to help himself work through the relationships and events that brought one sister to a terrible automobile accident that caused her death, and the other to a point where killing her husband seemed to be the only option she had to be free of her marriage.

While terribly sad and tragic, writing this book helped Valan, a Lutheran Minister and respected speaker on the topics of youth, family, and education, sort through his memories and come to a semblance of peace with the history of his sisters, Cordee and Liz. While not necessarily a contributory factor to their psychosis, both sisters were victims of sexual abuse by a farmhand when young, and by the time they reached adulthood, their mental illnesses began wreaking havoc on, not only their lives, but also on the lives of those around them.

And while the original purpose of this book was a sort of purge and sorting out of feelings for Valan, it also opens a door on a subject often times not openly discussed in “polite” company – that of mental illness. Through his writing, he was able to find a measure of healing from the turmoil and pain created over the years as a result of the actions of his siblings.

If nothing else, this book is an encouragement for anyone who might also have had their life touched by the effects of mental illness, and also proves the healing power that writing down painful memories and happenings can have on the heart and soul.

Rating: 5 of 5 – Copyright 2018 – North Dakota State University Press

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