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Unfair! by Kimberly Griffith and Dr. Terry Gunnells, Book Review Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1129

Book Review

Kimberly Griffith’s and Dr. Terry Gunnells’ 1997 book, Unfair!, tells the amazing true story of Kim’s traumatic life after she discovered the suicide of her husband and apparent murder of her two young daughters. Kim tells her story from the first person, with the assistance of her therapist, Dr. Gunnells. As Kim takes the reader on her journey from a poor and abusive childhood to the deaths in her family, the book becomes a tool of her healing process.

The author begins her tale as a mother of two and the wife of her husband, David. Despite her rough upbringing, Kim now lived what she considered a very normal life. Her traditional Christian family went to church, school, and work, and Kim felt life was going as planned. Her life took a dramatic turn for the worse, however, when she came home from work one day to find her children had been murdered and her husband had committed suicide.

After describing this horrific event, Kim then goes on to talk about her life and family background. Kim grew up in a very poor family, with an emotionally troubled mother who later took her own life. She always felt a strong sense of guilt and responsibility over her mother’s death and wondered if she had been a good enough daughter. Kim illustrates the story of when she was six years old and her mother attempted to smother her with a pillow. She describes how she was never able to trust her mother after that.

Kim further details how she met her husband and their dating experience. They had been married for 18 years before her husband committed suicide. Opposite to her mother, Kim felt angry with her husband for doing this and she was angry with God as well. Kim and her husband had a fairly stable relationship, but her husband had always resented the kids. This caused him to be an emotionally distant parent, and this infiltrated their marriage as well. Prior to the suicide, Kim’s husband found out that she had been growing friendly with another man, although nothing physical had occurred. Nevertheless, this caused her husband to become deeply depressed and distant.

Kim describes how she wishes she could have handled this situation differently and how it may have led to her husband’s depression, and ultimately his suicide. She struggled to reconcile how her husband could have committed the murders, however. She eventually realized that if she had detected the impending horror, she would have prevented it.

The book ends with Kim detailing her life several years later as a widow with her children taken from her. She takes the reader on a journey through her physical and emotional loss, including her sense of personal self. She then describes her healing process and her future needs for counseling. The final words come from Dr. Gunnells, who writes that Kim’s anger to her husband had vanished and had been replaced by a strong feeling of grief.

Kim does an excellent job of delivering the scene in a descriptive manner and building the story of her life leading up to the horrific scene. She graphically describes her family background as well as that of her husband. Her husband had his own troubled upbringing, with an alcoholic father and depressive mother. He also lived in the shadow of his brother, who was an athlete and outstanding student. Kim’s husband was diagnosed with a learning disability early on and school was always a challenge for him. Throughout his adult life, Kim’s husband continued to face challenges due to this disability.

Although many readers have suffered the loss that the author did, it is easy to relate to her story by the graphic first person writing. Kim illustrates that her life was similar to those of many other people, and she faced real challenges and stresses that everyone else does. Kim’s book serves as a reminder of the sensitivity of peoples’ emotional states, and how severe depression can become when left untreated.  This particular story was riveting and deeply touching. When Kim described her experiences and her relationships, the reader is pulled into feeling the same emotions.

An additional positive aspect of this book is the manner in which Kim presented her story with the support of her therapist. The therapist let Kim tell her own story and only interjected at relevant times. Both authors immediately built the story from the beginning, and essentially provided the climax early on. With the knowledge of the murder-suicide in the reader’s mind, it becomes much easier to relate to the authors as they present the story of Kim’s life.

As a counseling student, it’s important to take Kim’s life as a lesson into the potential implications of depression. Often this condition is ignored or neglected, to the peril of thousands of individuals. While medication is effective, counseling is the only long-term treatment for depression and other mental disorders. It’s important that we shed the negative connotations associated with depression and therapy, recognize this condition as a very real problem, and treat it like any other medical condition.

For children who grow up in troubled households, depression is not something that is commonly addressed, and many kids are raised believing that this emotional state is normal. Many of the issues associated with parental depression, alcoholism, addiction, and abuse, are left untreated. When these children become adults, they often cannot figure out why they are depressed themselves, or feel the need drink. Kim’s life, as well as her husband’s suicide, serves as a very real example of this.

Similarly, this book reminds of the internal struggle that many of us face with death. Kim’s emotional state following the murders and suicide are summarized in the title “Unfair,” describing her sense of helplessness. Depression and helplessness are strongly related, and as counselors, one of the most important steps we can take is to reestablish some sense of control in the individual’s environment. When deeply depressed, people often avoid people, work, neglect their normal routines, and feel they no longer have any sense of control over their lives. This sense of helplessness, or feeling that life is “Unfair,” is detrimental to recovery and should be countered as soon as possible. For Kim, writing this book was her attempt to regain this control.

In summary, Unfair is an excellent story of a woman’s struggle with poverty, an abusive childhood, a troubled marriage, and a major traumatic life event. The book is not only well written and gripping, but is therapeutic as the reader engages in the same growing and healing process as Kim. The authors present the subjects of depression, grief, and death, all of which are important concepts for the counseling student to consider when working with future clients.

Reference

Griffit, K., & Gunnells, T. (1997). Unfair! Montgomery, AL: Emma Jay Publishing.

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