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Rise published under the deceptive premise that a woman fleeing an abusive relationship built a house with only the help of her four children and YouTube videos. While Cara Brookins put more work into building her house than most people do, this fascinating book is a better read about escaping an abusive relationship than it is about building your own house.

Rise by Cara Brookins
Rise by Cara Brookins

Cara Brookins found herself in two abusive marriages after her first marriage to her high school sweetheart failed. Even after ending her third marriage, her second husband Adam continued to stalk her and her children, leaving them terrified. Although diagnosed with schizophrenia, Adam refused to take his medication. His delusions caused him to terrorize Cara and her children. Eventually she got a gun for her own safety since he threatened to kill her.

After living through the terror of both of her abusive marriages, Cara wanted a better life for her children. While she could afford a small house on her income, it would not be as spacious as she would like for her and her four children. To have a house big enough for all five of them, Cara decided to get a loan and build the house herself, with the help of her children. With all four children on board, they secure a loan and begin construction.

A Deceptive Premise

In the description of the book on Amazon (and every news article I’ve seen), Rise describes Cara’s journey as follows:

“Equipped only with YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan and a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children.”

However, I find that to be terribly deceptive. Here is a list of some of the things that Cara and her children did not do themselves:

  • Pour the foundation
  • Build the roof
  • Build and install the kitchen cabinets
  • Install the kitchen fixtures
  • All of the electrical work

Whenever Cara ran into a problem in the construction of the house, she hired a young man who worked at the local hardware store to help. Additionally, she hired contractors for all of the electrical and the majority of the kitchen work. For a portion of the project, she had her father helping. Although he was aging and struggling with illness, his experience in building was valuable to her.

I still believe that Cara and her children did an amazing thing. They just did not do what the media and marketing for her book say they did. They still did most of the work, which is more than I’ll ever do. But they did not build the house on their own with only the help of YouTube videos. They had a lot of help along the way.

Adam’s Illness

I think this was a better book about loving and suffering at the hand of someone with mental illness. Although the premise of building your own house is interesting, I found Rise to be somewhat lacking in that area. Cara’s story of abuse, however, gave an interesting perspective on loving someone with a mental illness.

When Cara first married Adam, he was a brilliant man with no sign of mental illness. However, as he began to descend into madness, he also began to be physically and psychologically abusive.

Although Adam could not help himself in many ways, his actions were still illegal. He was still terrorizing and harming his family. Despite the fact he had at one point been a brilliant man, he could not be excused for the terror he was causing for Cara and her children.

In Rise, Cara raised valid questions about how to love and manage a person with a mental illness like Adam’s, especially when personal safety is concerned. She shares her personal struggle of whether his being abusive because of mental illness was reason enough to leave, or whether she should stay and help him.

Her story is both terrifying and important. To those who know someone suffering from severe mental illness, especially with delusions, I recommend Rise. It will ring heartbreaking and familiar.

Quick Review

Although I feel that Rise was published under a deceptive premise, it’s still an interesting read. I feel like Cara did not live up to the claims of building her own house with only YouTube tutorials and her own children to help, but she still did amazing things. Other things within the book left me skeptical to Cara’s honesty, such as the advanced language she assigned to her toddler and the vivid recollections of meditations. However, I found it to be well-written and engaging. Her story and experience is unique and worth experiencing yourself. Whether or not you agree with how she handled the situations in her life, it’s a good read.

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends

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If you’re watching Nick’s season of The Bachelor right now, you may find yourself rolling your eyes at Corinne’s antics throughout each episode. She has certainly been painted as this season’s villain. In her memoir I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, Courtney Robertson gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at The Bachelor and life as one of its villains.

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson with Deb Baer
I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson with Deb Baer

When Courtney Robertson began her journey on Ben Flajnik’s season of The Bachelor, she immediately made enemies with the other girls. Although her intentions were to befriend them, her flavor of humor and the unique dynamic of being on The Bachelor created tension. Ultimately, she was there to build a relationship with Ben. She wanted to see where it would lead, and her friendships with the other girls did not take priority. As her relationship with Ben began to blossom, her relationships with the other girls continued to get worse.

“Ben and I mistook the constant drama for passionate love. We had some great moments, but they were flashes of happiness, and quickly came and went.”

Courtney Robertson

After receiving the proposal from Ben, the relationship between Courtney and Ben quickly dissolved. They found that they had no common interests. He enjoyed risk-taking adventures, while she wanted to enjoy quiet mornings relaxing. While those differences could have been worked through, Ben’s lack of support for her goals and her career became a serious problem in their relationship. Their many differences ultimately lead to their breakup.

Courtney Robertson was not as bad as producers made her out to be.

While her memoir may very well be dishonestly painting herself in a better light, I try to give authors the benefit of the doubt. I read with the assumption that what I am reading is at the very least mostly true. From what Courtney has written, it is clear that the producers really put her into the role of a villain once they saw the tension she created in the house. While she was not completely innocent, she was not as bad as she appeared to be.

Creative editing made her look worse.

After a rose ceremony, Ben announced the next destination. When it actually happened, he asked if anyone had been there, and Courtney replied something along the lines of, “I was just there a few months ago.” When that scene aired, the producers had cut out Ben’s question, showing only his announcement of where they were headed, her comment, and shots of all of the other women glaring. They made what was not actually a tense moment look incredibly tense.

She was attempting to be funny, but her humor came at the expense of the other girls.

During her interviews with producers for the show, she often tried to say funny things about the other girls. However, these things were often mean and her humor was not really taken for what it was. When communicating with the other girls, her attempts at humor were often misunderstood.

The dress she wore for the proposal was (mostly) chosen for her.

The women have to provide their own wardrobe for the entire show, up until the proposal. The producers provide the dresses that they will wear for that last episode. Unfortunately for Courtney, that meant she had her choice of about eight dresses, all of which she claims were horrible. The one she ultimately chose made her look like Cruella DeVille. It felt more like a Halloween costume than like a dress to get engaged in. Her costuming for the episode only added to the audience’s perception that she was the villain.

Courtney’s relationship fell apart after the show because of their shallow connection.

Courtney and Ben had very little in common. While they had a lot of passion, once she got past that and made an effort to get to know him, she realized that there were a lot of things that made them incompatible. In addition, she felt that she had been deceived by him on some points.

She felt their lack of shared interests made it difficult to spend time together.

Although they were interested in each other, they did not have things that they enjoyed doing together. He enjoyed going and doing things, while she enjoyed quiet activities at home. While he wanted to be around other people and other couples all of the time, she wanted to spend time alone with him. These differences in how they spent their time together made it difficult for them to enjoy the time they had together.

“It didn’t hit me while it was happening but his choice of activities was a major red flag. These were all things Ben wanted to do and it was incredibly selfish and immature. He never took into consideration that some girls might want to look sexy, not sweaty, wet, and/or scared”

Courtney Robertson

She did not feel that Ben supported her future.

When they had first talked about her being a model, Ben said that it was great. He had given her the impression that her modeling career was okay with him. However, when the cameras stopped rolling, his behavior showed her that he wasn’t okay with her career. He seemed to have problems with her making more money than he did. Other aspects of her career made him feel insecure, and she ultimately had to give up many jobs to appease him.

 Quick Review:

I enjoyed this quick, easy read. Despite her raunchiness and language, I found myself liking Courtney. The behind-the-scenes look at The Bachelor and how Courtney became one of its villains makes it a must-read for any Bachelor fan.


If you’re a Bachelor fan, what moments do you think are most edited for maximum drama?


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Trafficked is the haunting story of a young woman who is forced into prostitution by a close friend. This book had me so engaged that I finished it in two days. However, those two days were quickly followed by several nightmares because of some of the scars I carry from an abusive relationship in my late teenage years. I only suggest reading further in this post, as well as the book itself, if you have not been in one of these relationships or you are emotionally prepared to read things that might be upsetting to you.

Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Trafficked by Sophie Hayes

For four years, Sophie’s friendship with Kas was perfect. He was kind and a great listening ear. They had one awkward conversation when she started dating another man, when he also confessed his love for her. But other than that, things were great. After breaking off her relationship with her boyfriend and having emergency surgery on her stomach, she was invited to go away on vacation with Kas to Italy. They began a relationship, and after the first night of their relationship, he told her he was in debt and she needed to help him. He told her that if she really loved him, like she said she did, she would sell herself as a prostitute to help him make back the money he owed. When manipulation did not work, he physically threatened her and her younger brothers, making it clear to her that she had no choice but to work for him on the streets.

“I knew people didn’t say things like that in real life, but however much I tried to tell myself it was all some elaborately cruel joke, I knew in my heart that I’d made a huge and potentially fatal error when I’d allowed myself to break my golden rule and trust him.”

Sophie Hayes

This was an emotional read because of my connections to it.

No, I was not forced into prostitution by my abusive boyfriend. But he did exhibit many of the same abusive patterns that Kas did. He was charming and charismatic (at first) to lure me into feeling safe in the relationship. When he lost his temper over something, he always found a way to make it my fault. When I took the blame to try to make peace with a situation, though, he would play the self-pity card. Everything that he did was to control my emotions and my behaviors. Where emotional manipulation alone didn’t do the trick, physical and sexual abuse further degraded my self-worth to the point where I believed no one else would want or believe me.

“I never spoke unless Kas spoke to me, and when he asked me simple questions that I couldn’t answer–usually because I was too anxious to be able to focus my thoughts–I told myself he was right and I was becoming more stupid with every day that passed.”

Sophie Hayes

Sophie struggled during and after her ordeal with feeling as if the entire thing were her fault. In the same way, I struggled after my abusive relationship. I knew logically that it wasn’t my fault. Emotionally, I could not process how I could let myself fall into such a relationship. Others who spoke harmful words about the relationship after the fact only did things to damage my view of myself. Although I had many people who were overwhelmingly supportive, some were not. Louder than any of those voices, though, was the memory of his voice saying things meant to tear me down. Even after years of counseling and four and a half years of a happy marriage later, I occasionally think of some of those things he said that destroyed my self-confidence.

“I know that if someone told me that what happened to me had happened to them, I’d feel sorry for them and wouldn’t blame them for one moment. Even so, I still felt as though it was all somehow my fault.”

Sophie Hayes

One last thing I found as a point of connection with Sophie was the struggle between telling people about the trauma I endured and not telling them. Sophie did not choose to tell many people about the abuse and trafficking she endured, and struggled to explain some of her fears and behaviors to her coworkers and friends. While I have tried to be fairly open about my past, it is still hard to explain why certain things can completely unnerve me. I can come completely unglued if someone touches me on the knee or leg. If anyone looks like the boyfriend who abused me, I am wary of that person even if I know it isn’t logical. Certain foods make me feel physically ill because I have only ever eaten them with him and his family. Although I do not think about him often, those fears and scars linger and can come back in an instant.

“Not telling people can make things difficult, though–for example, when I overract to something and can’t explain why, such as the time someone at work fired a toy gun at me and I fell on the floor with my hands over my head, screaming.”

Sophie Hayes

This book brings great awareness to human trafficking issues.

Sophie Hayes was an educated woman with a family who loved her. She was in her twenties with a stable job and an apartment. By most measures, she was not an ideal target for human trafficking except that someone she cared about took four years to groom her. He then lured her out of the country and threatened her younger brothers. He convinced her that he had people working for him everywhere and that he could see everything she did. She was afraid of her customers, strangers, and even the police.

Several times she was brought in by the police, who treated her like a criminal. They were convinced that she was doing this on her own free will, and made her life on the streets even more difficult. Although prostitution is a crime, she wishes that they would have asked questions that would have helped her feel safe to share what was really happening. She wishes that they would have recognized the signs that she was being abused and trafficked, and sought to get her home to her family. It was not until she was so sick that she went to the hospital instead of “work” that she ended up making contact with her family and getting rescued out of the life Kas had forced her into living.

Although this book brought up some bad memories (and may for anyone who has been in any kind of abusive relationship), I still felt like it added value because of the interest and the information it gave me about the issue of human trafficking. While Sophie is from England and this happened in Italy, human trafficking happens here in the United States, and knowing the signs can help those who are trapped in this horrible situation. Each one of us can do something about human trafficking when we see the signs. For more information on recognizing the signs of human trafficking, read here.

Good Chinese Wife

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My words cannot fully summarize how brilliantly written this book is and all of the reasons you should read it. Susan Blumberg-Kason gives and honest and raw look into the ups and downs of an emotionally abusive relationship that crosses cultural divides.

Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason
Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason

From the first few pages, the reader knows that this book will be about a woman who falls in love with a man who does not treat her the way that he should. At each turn of the page, her beautiful foreshadowing left me breathless, asking, “What is this guy going to do to her next?”

Like all abusive relationships, though, it was not always bad. She detailed her courtship to Cai and the ways that he made her feel special when they were dating. She shares the way he wooed her while they were both studying in Hong Kong. She was from America and he was from mainland China.

When things started cropping up in their relationship, she chalked it up to cultural differences or his own stress over his doctoral work. Instead of spending their wedding night with her, Cai ordered porn and told her to go to sleep. He regularly put his preferences and comfort before hers when decisions needed to be made. When his professors pushed her to drink alcohol and Susan expressed her discomfort with the situation, Cai exploded with anger. One night, she caught him flirting with a prostitute on the phone. Despite these things, she did what she could to maintain peace because she did not want to go home to her parents with a failed marriage.

Two things Kai did stood out as especially dreadful.

The first happened when they were still in China. Susan contracted an STD, despite having been married to Cai for a year and a half and having no other partners. When she started treatment and told him that the doctor insisted that he start it as well, he bristled at the suggestion. He denied having an affair, although she knew that was the only way it could have been contracted. He then looked it up in a Chinese disease dictionary, started laughing, and told her it was a “women’s disease.” Thus ended the conversation.

The second thing happened after they had moved to the United States and had their son. Cai frequently got frustrated with their son’s crying and would grab him and dangle him over the stairwell in their home, threatening to drop him. He would shut him in an empty room, leaving him on the floor. The things he did to his child were scary, and motivation for her to get out.

This book serves as a great warning about the red flags of abusive relationships.

It is important for young women to know what red flags are for an emotionally and physically abusive relationship so that they can avoid being in one themselves. If they are already in one, seeing those red flags develop into an even worse version of the situation they are in might be the motivation they need to get out before the situation escalates. Reading a book like this one can give a woman information on red flags in an emotional, but concrete way. Susan brings her story to life in such a personal way that you cannot help but cheer for her when she gets out of her marriage with Cai.

“I’d been in this dysfunctional relationship for five years and could no longer tell what about it was normal and what was unacceptable.”

Susan Blumberg-Kason

For the woman who may find herself in a relationship or marriage to someone like Cai, reading a book like this one may give her the inspiration to reach out for help to get out of that relationship. Though Susan’s situation is unique in many ways, especially in that it is a relationship across cultural boundaries, there is a lot to be learned about the way she escaped. She sought the help of a lawyer and her mother, then left while he was at work. For those wishing to escape who do not have someone they trust to help them, there are centers willing to help women and children fleeing abusive relationships.