The following is an excerpt from Little Mercies, the latest from Heather Gudenkauf New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.
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When people find out what I do for a living their first question is always about the most horrendous case of child abuse I’ve encountered. I can be at a backyard barbecue or at a New Year’s Eve party or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, or my husband’s baseball game. You must see so much, they say, shaking their heads, lips pursed in something like empathy, like I was the one who might have endured the beatings, the burns, the torrents of hateful words. Of course I don’t share any details about my clients and their families. So much has been stripped from the children that stagger in and out of my orbit; the very least I can do is honor their privacy. Come on, people urge, tell me. It’s bad isn’t it? Like I’m dangling some salacious gossip in front of them. Like I’m keeping mum because I don’t want to offend their tender ears, upset their perfectly ordered worlds where all children are touched with gentle hands, spoken to with loving words and tucked warmly into beds with full stomachs.
Close your eyes, I once told the shortstop’s mother and she did, almost quivering in anticipation of the gory details. She nodded in compliance, cocking her head in my direction, preparing for what I will reveal next. Will I tell her about Mariah Crane, the seven-year-old whose mother held her head under water until there was no chance that her damaged brain could ever catch up with her growing body? Or will I tell them about the twins? Everyone has heard about the Twin Case, as it’s still known. Everyone wants to know more about the twins.
Now imagine the vilest things that can be done to a human being, I say. I let her think about this for a moment and I can see the slight spasm of revulsion skitter across her face. That’s what I’ve seen. She opens one eye to see if I’ll say anything else. But that’s all I have for her.
Text Copyright © 2014 by Heather Gudenkauf
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.