Out of the Fire and into the Pan: Sequel to The Blood on My Hands
by Shannon O'Leary
Ingram Spark

"Diffidence can hold fast to my heart...Insecurity can suffocate my brain...propelling me back to a time when I was taught self-hatred by my father."

In this second volume of her memoirs, the author continues writing under a pen name. The reason for anonymity becomes obvious when one learns of the blood-curdling record of childhood events endured due to her father’s madness for violence. Years after his death, some of his murderous actions have still not been verified, even with the help the family has provided to authorities.

The main characters in this second book are her mother, brothers, and grandmother, a series of different men with whom the author matured sexually and/or emotionally, and the five children she bore with her now-deceased husband. O’Leary recounts the redeeming characteristics that each brought into her life. While the danger of exploring love made the author vulnerable, it also gave her “the strength to be brave.” She refers to this stage of her life as a series of stepping stones.

Mostly about the author’s personal growth and change, this sequel candidly records events from her teens through mid-fifties. In her younger years, she admits to not wishing to be fixed; she simply followed as a guiding light her mother’s “philosophy of striving for something better every day and making it a personal goal to get through one day at a time.” Born in Australia, this prolific author has succeeded in creating a multifaceted career in acting, playwriting, and education. She was driven by financial necessity as well as a calling to utilize her creative talents and those of her children.

The author’s The Blood on My Hands provides useful background. However, this book stands alone with the many acts recorded of her father’s terrorizing of family members long after they lived apart. The author deserves high credits for the masterful way she handles such emotionally-charged content. It is almost as if she lends readers the hard-won gift of survival.

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