By H.A. Leuschel
Publisher: Helene Leuschel
Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
I often find that writing reviews for titles I do not normally tend to read can be challenging. I have already stepped outside of my normal boundaries, and now I have to adjust my assessment and thoughts accordingly. It can often take a day or two to fully digest and process the experience. Why? Because I am approaching something new and foreign. This means I have began without any preconceived expectations. I am uncertain as to what I expect and have no set guidelines or generalized requirements that will determine whether this was a successful reading experience. If you hand me a fantasy or horror novel, I can easily provide you a list of elements that I enjoy encountering in those genres. With that being said, I think a little variation can be a needed and refreshing experience. So let’s discuss how Manipulated Lives fared for me as far as plot, characters, etc.
First of all, if you have not gathered from the synopsis, this is actually a collection of novellas or short stories that present the lives of various individuals who have either spent their lives manipulating others or found themselves being manipulated. Each story, while somewhat brief, manages to paint a very vivid picture of just how manipulation can and does play a role in everyday life. While presented in various forms, manipulation is the common theme ever-present.
I was instantly caught up in the ingenuity of the author’s concept. The human psych is a mysterious and fascinating subject. Here we are cleverly handed a multifaceted view into manipulation and the lives it affects. There was something deeply satisfying and enlightening about Leuschel’s decision to portray this behavior through a series of shorter novellas spanning over the lives of multiple characters. This provided a much broader scope of just how significant the impact of manipulation is. It was completely fascinating and at points terrifying.
“It is useless trying to reach through the labyrinth of their minds, when their ability to sympathize with others is lacking. Why was it lacking in the first place? Was it some evolutionary glitch – some genetic outcrop of humanity?”
–H.A. Leuschel, Manipulated Lives
Manipulated Lives offers a glimpse into the heart of the manipulators and the victims, giving a face and voice to each in a way that can only be described as raw and honest. I am going to leave my impressions of the overall plot and novellas here, as I felt that true impact with each story was the slow revelation of the true manipulation that was occurring.
Composed of 5 novellas, we meet a handful of characters throughout Manipulated Lives. Some are manipulators and some are victims. We are exposed to a diversified group of individuals who range in age and characteristics that each contribute strongly to the story and help paint a credible vision of the events unfolding.
There is an appropriate amount of depth and back story behind each character, supplying just enough emotion and credence to each tale. We find that we can easily correlate their relationships and how their lives are being affected and influenced by one another.
“If you are observant, you can see it all in their eyes. If you can interpret what goes on through the eyes of another, you are okay, you’ll not fall into the trap of the cunning. I know all too well. Stepping into their trap is like being sucked into a dark, narrow hole.”
–H.A. Leuschel, Manipulated Lives
Some characters solicit anger and disbelief, while others evoke. You will find yourself submerged within their world.
This is another story where our characters truly are the world. The atmosphere is set within each novella through the emotions conveyed and individual struggles. While the author easily portrays each environment or setting, it is the conflict and revelations that are truly the heart of each world and where the construction is taking place. The focus in not centered upon where the events are unfolding, but more so upon each characters behavior and mentality.
The writing is very clean and precise. The author has managed to articulate each story in a manner that clearly describes circumstances and events without the addition of unnecessary of details. Each tale moves forward in a fluent and steady pace, creating a fast and gripping read.
Manipulated Lives was a new and welcomed experienced. This was a truly unique and detailed look into the human psych that provides a fascinating and engaging read. Anyone who has ever wanted to peek behind the curtain of the human mind will appreciate this fast and engrossing read.
*I received a copy courtesy of the author. This is my honest and unbiased review.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐