REVIEWS

Sharon Martinez, July 18, 2016 — “I could not take my eyes off this Book! Amazing Resiliency and very Courageous! Thank you Charol :)”

Insights for anyone in a relationship, B. Munson, May 16, 2015 — “I found Charol’s story about her relationship with this guy she calls a Svengali absolutely captivating. She describes in completely honest writing the raw experience of loving a person who is sick and needy and potentially very dangerous. Perhaps the bigger story is that, through her own strengths and beliefs, she was able to rise above this sick relationship and save herself. How she was able to do this is a wonderful lesson for anyone caught up in an unhealthy relationship.”

Mike Russo, August 9, 2015 — “I read Charol Messenger’s book with the intention of seeing where she handled her ‘Svengali’ well and where she did so poorly. While I learned a great deal from this gifted writer, it was difficult at times for me to read because I wanted her to break off her relationship with Joey once-and-for- all since he kept taking advantage of her again and again. This book would be an ideal workbook for a women’s studies course. If you have a crazy person in your life of the opposite sex, this book should be helpful to you by providing insight.”

Kirkus Reviews – “This tale chronicles a challenging chapter in Messenger’s life, when she found herself trapped in and then emerging from a toxic relationship. During the early days of her prolific writing career, Messenger (Walking With Angels, 2013) was recovering from a breakup. In need of companionship, she lowered her defenses. Joseph sought out Messenger to help write his book about how a Colorado sheriff was actually a serial killer. The pair were drawn physically to each other, and they quickly became a couple. The two were polar opposites: Messenger was spiritual, optimistic, and nurturing; Joey was uncouth, negative, and narcissistic. Joey was soon mooching off the financially strapped Messenger, then a temp office worker, to support his drinking and gambling. Still, despite the psychological abuse by the self-absorbed Joey, Messenger  couldn’t  end   the  relationship,   in  part  because  she   could  find  the good  in any-body.  Instead, she  vented  about  him when alone in her apartment: ‘No one has ever treated me as unkindly as you!  You are completely unreliable!’ Eventually she came to the realization that she needed to escape the self-destructive circumstances: ‘I must take care of myself, for a while shut out the world, forget Joey and all the pain that came with him.’ Even after she kicked out Joey, she lived in fear that he would return to upset the life she was trying to rebuild. Throughout the book, Messenger smoothly weaves in the difficulties from her past via flashbacks to help readers understand how she ended up in this psychologically damaging pairing. It’s also evident how the author’s New-Age beliefs and her wide circle of friends sustained her through this trying, six-month ordeal. Messenger’s harrowing cautionary tale ably urges those in similar situations to heed warning signs. An inspiring tale of how one woman’s beliefs enabled her to escape severe dysfunction.”

Michael Lawn, Licensed Professional Counselor – “I foundThe Power of Courage very well-written and captivating. I was glad to see the diagnoses in the second half of the book agree with how I characterized Joey’s personality: narcissistic and borderline. Charol did a great job of portraying the relentless force and intensity of his character. Although I was often amazed at such personal details, they added to the story’s credibility. I believe a lot of women with a history of abuse could benefit from reading about her struggle.”

Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review “Lots of memoirs on domestic violence recount the violence part without the specific pieces: how you get in/how you get out/what the actual experience is like as it evolves through different phases. THAT is this book’s strength—and uniqueness! Plenty of books tell of toxic relationships and abuse, and plenty of autobiographies detail how their authors emerged from them; but few offer the specific focuses on entrapment and escape as does The Power of Courage, which chronicles a close connection between opposite personalities that began simply with an aspiring author’s request to Messenger to write his book. It’s when loneliness is a part of everyday life that decisions are sometimes made that are obviously contrary to logic and which are deadly. As Messenger came to see that her chosen one was a user, an abuser, an alcoholic and a narcissistic personality in stark contrast to her own, she found herself unable to let loose the chains that bound her to him. Ironically, she could perceive and admit these issues only when alone. Also ironically, she found that the patterns of her past (which she had already rigorously fought against) contributed to her present-day dilemma. And, finally, she would find that her ability to see good in all facets of life would have to be set aside in order to properly see and act on the negativity that was taking over her world. The Power of Courage neatly answers the question of ‘how can this happen?’ The incongruities, the inconsistencies—everything is explored with an eye to detailing exactly how one falls into a ‘bottomless pit’ in a relationship, how blindness becomes a position of even the most educated, intelligent person, and what transpires behind closed doors: ‘. . . we both burst out laughing, and Joey’s eyes flashed. ‘I’ve been swearing more since I met you,’ he said, smiling. ‘I must really like you.’ Swearing was liking me? Geez. Still, no man had ever shown this much interest in me.’ As illustrated above, there are many passages where events and observations illustrate the psychological process of how an intelligent thinker comes to accept behaviors that should be unacceptable. And this is where The Power of Courage departs from other accounts of abuse and recovery. By pinpointing exactly where the breaking points are and how logic is warped into acceptance, readers gain insight into a process rarely presented in such specific detail—and into the kinds of patterns that lead to abuse. Harrowing, riveting, and educational: these facets join together to create something exceptional in The Power of Courage.”

Anne L. Clark, artist, UK –  “A haunting, thought-provoking story. It was difficult to put this book down. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. Was she going to get away? At times, I found this book not to be easy reading at all as it brought a lot of emotions up in me and I was hyper aware of my own judgmental attitudes and impatience. This book haunted me on many levels. There is so much going on between the lines in this story, offering the opportunity for opening up many lines of reflection, debate and discussion, not least of which is the question of just how does one reconcile having a relationship or what you do with normal loving feelings with a parent when they have sexually abused you as a child? It clearly portrays in the reality of the tale just how one’s personal boundaries and relationship expectations can go all awry when one has being so violated and left so unsupported. It is a testament to learning how to trust your own process, discovering your own inner strength and truth and re-defining your own personal boundaries despite all odds.”

Self-Publishing Review, 4.5 stars  “In The Power of Courage, a memoir of an abusive relationship, Messenger takes us day by day through the twists and turns of an affair that turns very bad very quickly, becoming emotionally, psychologically, and physically dangerous. In fact, and this is one of the strangest things about this story, it doesn’t really turn bad. It starts out that way. I have been told that during performances of Shakespeare’s Othello, audiences often shout and leap from their seats in an attempt to stop Othello from killing Desdemona. I felt much the same thing reading The Power of Courage. For the first quarter or so of the book, I kept wanting to shout at the narrator, shake her, even, at times, to make her see what is so obvious to the reader, but she seems blind to the garden-variety jerk, and within ten pages, you realize he is a psychopath as well. There is no period of charm and trust-building. He is a total opportunistic prick from their first meeting when he smokes in Messenger’s car without asking, makes outrageously racist and sexist comments, and makes it very clear that he is controlling and manipulative. Joey Estanopolous is a handsome (if somewhat lacking in hygiene skills), Greek-American with an obsession about a local sheriff he believes responsible for the murders for which Ted Bundy was executed. Charol meets him when he approaches her about ghost-writing a true crime book that would reveal the truth. His story is as outrageous as his behavior, but again, Messenger is so eager to write the book (she can be as grandiose as he at times, seeing bestseller lists before she even looks at his notes) she doesn’t seem to notice the classic pathology sitting across from her in a coffee shop. (Armchair psychologists will enjoy diagnosing Joey, and my guess is most of them will nail it.) So I began this book thinking how ridiculous it all was. Messenger was lonely and naïve, yes, but how could anyone be so naïve as to walk into something like this? Yet Messenger does an amazing job of trapping the reader, just as she was trapped. By the second half of the book, I was unable to stop reading, despite my aversion to what was going on, and got an increasingly powerful insight into what it must have been like for Messenger—and for the many other women in similar situations. Never again will I wonder how women get caught up in this kind of relationship, why they don’t just boot the b*stard out, call the police, get a restraining order. Messenger has very cleverly shown me that this kind of relationship is far more complex than I had realized, and far more difficult to extract oneself from the longer it goes on. (If there is any message in Messenger’s book, it is something along the lines of ‘if he’s a total prick when you meet him, forget any romantic images you may have of Rhett Butler and run, not walk, the other way before the second date.’ And perhaps, ‘Don’t take romance novels seriously.’) Messenger uses her deep New Age spirituality to both sustain her and eventually support her in getting free. And in the end, I came to see what looked at first like a far too passive response as something to respect, after a fashion, rather than scorn. The Power of Courage is well written, and rewarding in its way, for all the disturbing elements of the story. Messenger made it out, and readers will too, and will be the stronger for the experience.”

Barbara Munson – “I found Charol’s story about her relationship with this guy absolutely captivating. She describes in completely honest writing the raw experience of loving a person who is sick and needy and potentially very dangerous. Perhaps the bigger story is that, through her own strengths and beliefs, she was able to rise above this sick relationship and save herself. How she was able to do this is a wonderful lesson for anyone caught up in an unhealthy relationship.”

Melodie Hawkins: -“Charol Messenger is not only a gifted writer and editor, she’s also a sensitive clairvoyant and ‘soul path’ reader who helps with those large life decisions. She helped me through my own ‘trauma drama’ of the last ex whose personality defects were very similar to the male in this story—borderline and narcissistic personality disorders among others…. Totally recommended reading. This is her second memoir and a dramatic true story based on part of her own soul path. We are indeed stronger at the broken places… Thank you Charol for sharing this part of your story! ♡♡♡♡♡”