Split was recommended to me at Kidlitcon while I was there this October, and I have to tell you, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read depicting children of abuse.
Swati Avasthi puts us in the mind of Jace Witherspoon, child of domestic violence. Jace is kicked out of his home after being beaten by his dad while attempting to defend his mom, and rides from Chicago to New Mexico to begin a fragile family life with his brother Christian, who left home years earlier.
Avasthi used to coordinate a domestic-violence legal clinic, which is perhaps why her characters are so credible. Fiction and non-fiction alike feed our desire for the lurid in regard to abuse, but it’s a rare writer who can show the roller coaster of emotion that reside in an abuse victim. Jace both believes his mother will come to him, and at the same time believes that she is incapable of escaping her co-dependent situation. He abhors his dad’s violence and is incapacitated when he finds that kind of tendency in himself.
Christian lives with the guilt of having left his younger brother, and the fear of discovery by his family. Both boys battle their background in regard to what is and isn’t acceptable regarding relationships, both with others and between themselves.
There are no easy answers for Avasthi’s characters. First hand, I know that they will revisit these emotional rough spots over and over. Some days they will be triumphant. Other days they will fail. They will always have issues with their father, an abuser, and their mother, who stays in the situation. It won’t be easy for them, even though they do have each other and some strong supporting characters.
Split is a good book to read. It doesn’t end neatly, but it ends hopefully, as the brothers decide to carry on with their lives. I wish them the best of luck and healing in their circumstances, and I strongly recommend this book for teens and their parents.