Title: The First Day of the Rest of My Life
Author: Cathy Lamb
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Madeleine O’Shea is a life coach, empowering women and inspiring them to lead productive and happy lives. But her entire career is a sham - Madeleine has never recovered from the sexual abuse inflicted upon her when she was a child, and as a result, she is a shell of a woman. She hasn’t been able to come to terms with what happened; she is fragile, afraid of breaking her carefully composed façade at every turn. But when a reporter starts investigating Madeleine’s past and threatens to bring everything to light, Madeleine realizes the way she’s been living is not sustainable.
The First Day of the Rest of My Life is a heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring story of two women who have experienced unbelievable horrors. As innocent children, they were terrorized by their mother’s boyfriend, informed that if they told anyone what he was doing to them, he would kill their mother. Lamb details the disgusting and depraved actions that Madeleine and her little sister Annie were forced to undergo, and it is incredibly difficult to read. There were many times I had to put the book down and just close my eyes, because it’s so hard to think of these innocent children dealing with sexual abuse, especially with the knowledge that versions of this fictional story happen every day.
It’s this anger, this shame, and the guilt for not being able to protect her sister that cripple Madeleine today. Though she wants to stop being victimized by her past, she doesn’t know how to move on and begin living her life on her own terms. It is so sad to see how broken Madeleine is from her childhood, and it’s interesting to see how that affects everything she does.
But Madeleine and Annie are not the only focus of The First Day of the Rest of My Life. Their grandparents, who have loved them and given them shelter from the world, have secrets of their own which are now coming to light. Madeleine and Annie must deal with their shocking revelations, at the same time they are trying to cope with the prospect of a reporter digging into their own pasts and bringing everything to light. It becomes almost overwhelming, the weight Madeleine feels on her shoulders as she desperately tries to protect her family.
Admittedly, at times The First Day of the Rest of My Life is a little over the top, especially during the second trial featured in the book. On the whole, though, it’s a heartfelt and very real story about a women struggling to break free from the chains of her past. Lamb does an excellent job meditating on society's desire to demonize the victims of a tragedy, especially when the victim is female and the crime is sexual in nature. It’s an intelligent and very emotional novel that I recommend to fans of thought provoking women’s fiction.