Nightmare in Hostage Hills

Christina Mask

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“Sadly, Christina’s journey, and her children’s experience of being collateral damage, is not atypical. Kudos for her strength and bravery in putting her story out there as a cautionary tale for others.” (Dr. Susan Weitzman, author, Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages). “Christina Mask’s Nightmare is constructed around fragments from a life in agony as one woman attempts to escape abuse, retain her sanity, and regain the custody of three children the family court and her husband have taken from her. It’s all here—the daily records over months, then years; the diary entries; the self-blame; the excuses; the shame; the absurdist dialogues with family therapists; marginalia from readings or lectures or religious texts; letters pleadings with judges and lawyers and evaluators; poems; letters to and from the children, real and imagined; the reports that put her claims of abuse in quotations; and so, so much more. These pieces are loosely joined by a narrative and an interior monologue that I sometimes found too much to bear. But then I realized I was scanning something akin to a Picasso painting, whose underlying truth lay not in what was on the page, not the fragments, but in the hope that put them out here, no more evident than in the endlessly reasonable letters Mask writes to intractable foes. Mask has cast her eye on what Yeats termed ‘the broken, crumbling battlement’ of the self and lived to write it. As one director famously said about the sixty women and children crowded into her six-bedroom shelter, ‘If they can manage this, they can manage anything.’ Christina’s book gives us faith that she is right.” (Evan Stark, PhD, MSW. The writer is professor emeritus at Rutgers University, and author of Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life [Oxford, 2007]).

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