A true-life story of a mother’s experience of the brutal murder/attempted rape of her 8 year old daughter by a 16 year old neighbour’s son.
Clearly written as a much-needed catharsis, LIVING WITHOUT LIESL is a harrowing read, translated from the original Afrikaans. While there are moments of deep wisdom, the overall tone of the book is bitter and furious, although in the last twenty pages a tone of quiet acceptance begins to creep in.
Some advice is detailed for other grieving parents and reflects a projection of a smouldering anger onto the unsuspecting folk who don’t know quite know how to react to the tragic circumstances, or who react clumsily. These (mostly) well-intentioned folk are often berated for being “insensitive” to the grieving parents’ needs, or for making “inane” comments. Apparently a common reaction of persons suffering deep grief, this attitude did distract me. The final pages contain a heartrending letter to the murderer of young Liesl.
After reading the book, I was left with a lingering despair at the dark depths to which humanity will sink. The telling of this story raises many questions: where is the justice in a legal system that counts a child’s life, given up in final moments of unimaginable terror, worth only twelve years in prison? The youthful murderer ‘Piet Strydom’ served only five years; he was around twenty-one when he was released, with a lifetime of possibility ahead of him, while his victim lies dead in the ground. Can a mother ever overcome such a fundamental breach of all her hopes and dreams for her beautiful daughter?
A personal story, LIVING WITHOUT LIESL offers a starting point for other parents who have suffered as grievously and who may identify with the pain still permeating the lives of Liesl’s family.