By: Tracy Stopler
Publication Date: August 2016
Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau
In The Ropes That Bind, author Tracy Stopler tells the story of Tali Stark, following her from childhood into adulthood. At nine years old, Tali is abducted and sexually assaulted by a stranger on her way to school. Miraculously, she is released hours later. However, Tali carries the lingering trauma of this event with her for decades. The Ropes That Bind explores Tali’s experiences as a survivor long after her abduction and assault, guiding both her and the reader through a difficult and inspiring recovery process.
The Ropes That Bind makes two important observations very early on. The first is that trauma doesn’t simply go away because the event causing it is over. Tali carries the memory of it with her throughout her life. It haunts her in nightmares and flashbacks, completely altering the way she might have lived her life otherwise. The second observation is that healing doesn’t happen in a day. It can be messy and it’s never a straight and easy path, something that author Tracy Stopler writes about without flinching. Readers journey with Tali as she stumbles into a healing process of her own, searching for one that’s right for her. The book is full of lessons like these and while it could certainly be beneficial to other survivors, it’s also something that people who have never experienced this kind of trauma will be able to learn from. It’s a powerful story of healing.
While the messages Stopler delivers in her novel are undeniably positive, there are several negative aspects that stand out in sharp contrast. The book is written less like a novel and more like a summary of a novel. This is an issue that comes from trying to load too much into one relatively short book. Rather than a story, The Ropes That Bind reads more like a list of barely related events. As readers follow Tali from childhood to mid-life; her story is a combination of vague explanations of pivotal events and other painstakingly detailed scenes that add very little to the story. These scenes are never tied together into a single cohesive story.
The novel also lacks a sense of time and place. Sometimes years will pass in a page or two without warning, and other times a single scene with little significance to the story will drag on for an entire chapter. Often the story will continue as if moving in a regular, linear fashion, only for a character to suddenly say that anywhere from two years to ten have passed. The audience is constantly pulled out of the story to accommodate these unexplained time skips.
The Ropes That Bind is a novel clearly written with the best of intentions. The author knows what she’s talking about when she discusses what goes into healing from a traumatic event. On the other side of that coin, the information is not portrayed in a way suitable to fiction, woven into the narrative. Instead, it is given to the audience in massive chunks all at once.
Quill says: Author Tracy Stopler makes her best effort to portray a long and arduous post-trauma healing process.