Love is the Answer, God is the Cure
by Aimee Cabo Nikolov
Inspirational Books Publishing

"I always pray that God removes any darkness around me and fill my soul and life with love."

Nikolov’s complex, searching memoir details the severe abuse and trauma which impacted the trajectory of her life. It is also a cathartic account of the faith she holds steadfastly to for survival and how her belief in God enables her to transcend the darkness.

It begins with the remembrance of a call from her nineteen-year-old sister, Nicole, whom she hasn’t seen or spoken to for nine years. They journey together to the Dominican Republic—a vacation gift from their older sister, Michelle, who had an unused honeymoon trip due to her husband’s fear of flying. It is a familiar place for them both. It is also where the author meets her future husband, Dr. Boris, a Bulgarian man working there as a resort doctor. Nikolov’s burgeoning romance with Dr. Boris (Bobby) is clouded by uncertainty and unease that her past, fraught with pain and haunted memories, will be too much for him to bear, but Bobby convinces her with his love and affection to agree to tell him everything.

She revisits her past, beginning at the age of three when her mother meets a trio of men during medical school in the Dominican Republic. Her mother settles with nineteen-year-old Andres, a man the author comes to know as a father and whom she fondly calls Papi. But by age seven, troubling revelations of sexual abuse toward her at the hand of Andres come to light. At first, her mother confronts the abuse then shockingly ignores it, a defining point that marks the genesis of a lifelong struggle for Nikolov. After her sister Michelle discovers the abuse and helps her to safety, the family plunges into despair with the involvement of legal authorities and the infamous “Case from Hell” that splits their family apart.

As a vulnerable Nikolov works through her traumas, she recounts the terrifying dream of a charging “monstrous bull, sent by the devil,” a recurring, hellish vision that torments her. She succumbs to drugs and alcohol as “a very welcome escape.” Throughout her youth and young adulthood, the author confronts the varied men (and women) who take advantage of her as she wrestles with relentless abuse and neglect. She observes the convoluted relationships of her family, celebrates the birth of her children, and honors the love and support of her husband Bobby. She also imparts the significance of her faith and the resolute trust in God that allows her to emerge from unimaginable violence as a stronger woman.

This is a profoundly moving and gracefully rendered memoir of a broken woman’s triumph against the darkness surrounding her. Each chapter begins with prayers or words of inspiration, another clear reference to Nikolov’s faith. Weaving the narrative between past and present, the author juxtaposes them as she navigates through the highs and lows of her life. Her depictions of the harsh environment of her home and abuse as a young girl are arresting and perhaps the most memorable portions of the book. It is evident with each self-realization that Nikolov defies the odds even with “the decks stacked against” her. She grapples with the alienation from those she needs most. She addresses poignant moments of heartache, self-doubt, depression, and the legal machinations that nearly destroy her.

The vivid descriptions of the cruelty inflicted upon her are brutally honest, and Nikolov holds nothing back. The symbolism of the bull threaded throughout her chronicle is a startling image that’s hard to ignore and becomes an unforgettable metaphor for all of her sorrow and agony. Though as unsettling as her past must be, she finds joy and beauty through the gloom with the birth of her daughter, Danielle, whom she protects and nearly loses. She seeks higher education and travels the world. She welcomes the birth of her other children and her marriage to Bobby, a loving relationship that heavily contributes to her success today.

While this lean book doesn’t allow the author much room to explore every detail, person, and event which are only mentioned briefly, the book is structurally sound. Nikolov maintains a mastery over a narrative she never loses control of. It is a timely book and one that joins the ranks of well-remembered memoirs. It is a candid story of a woman’s fight with the demons that torture her and the victory over them. She skillfully explores within these pages the horror and the goodness of our humanity and how one can persevere in the face of tremendous odds. By its end, the reader no doubt will respect her and feel compelled to share her story.

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