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Judy Croome: Author on the Prowl

Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa.  A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome

Living Without Liesl: A True Story - Douwleen Bredenham 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.