August 24, 2015
Tracy Shepard's Review of The Olive Picker a memoir by Kathryn Brettell
In 2008, during the Global Financial crisis, Kathi survived being assaulted, beaten and left for dead. A step kid, Kathi grew up with all the confidence of a road flattened squirrel, but this near death experience changed her completely.
The blurb of this remarkable read does not describe the life that author Kathi Brettell has endured and survived. It is powerful, honest and really quite amazing.
Kathi’s childhood would have been idyllic, if it wasn’t for her violent step-father. She and her sister Debbie were raised on a farm and Kathi developed a skill for making money.
Some funny stories, such as when she sought information about sex mingled with a brutal account of what she has endured makes The Olive Picker an outstanding read.
Told partly with an interview with her therapist and mostly of her own words, this grabbed my interest early on and was a satisfying days read.
It is a disturbing tale, moving from one drama to another, Kathi’s life changes from interesting and disappointment to one of complete tragedy.
It is hard to review an account of someones life experiences. What one imagines it must have been like to live, must have been harder to write and re-live in something that is going to be made so public. To even have to give it a star rating just makes me feel ill at ease.
A story of survival and strength I have a tremendous respect and love for the woman that is Kathryn Brettell. She is truly a remarkable and brave woman. An inspiration.
Tracy Shephard's Q & A with Author Kathryn Brettell
1. What encouraged you to write about your experience in such detail?
I recognized fairly soon after The Event that people had a lot of questions about what had happened to me. I didn’t avoid them, but I felt uncomfortable with my answers, primarily because the little I could tell over a cup of coffee didn’t adequately tell the story. Also, I believed there were other people who would relate to my story and in finding common ground it might give them strength.
2. Is there anything you left out that you wish now you had included?
3. What kind of woman were you before The Event, and what are you like now?
The old Kathi lacked self confidence. She felt undeserving; someone who picked up shit, picked olives, i.e. the least of us. Now, I am not afraid to meet and speak with anyone, I smile easily and often, I stand taller. It’s like getting a new pair of glasses – I see things now that were previously hidden from me.
4. You don’t really talk of your families reaction to what happened, what does your mother think and has she read your book?
My sisters all read the manuscript prior to publication and are all very supportive. We are very close. My mother declined to read it before, but has since purchased a copy. Her only comment after reading it was that she always knew I was a writer. I believe she did the best she was capable of during those years. She gave me life, and more, and has finally confirmed all the incidents I wrote about in my childhood as true. My former sisters-in-law have read the book and are 100% supportive. The response from extended family and friends has been all positive.
5. Have you used your experiences to help other women in similar situations?
Yes, that’s been the most rewarding aspect of writing this book. I’ve learned that there are many, many people who, like me, have trouble identifying abusive behavior. It’s not an easy leap to think that emotional and/or verbal abuse might escalate to physical abuse. The Olive Picker has been a great “conversation starter”, at book clubs, women’s events, and just one-on-one discussions.
6. As a survivor what would be your advice to those in the same predicaments?
My best advice is to talk about abuse openly. Peeling the curtain back and saying – out loud – what is happening, takes a lot of its power away. Even if the person doesn’t realize right away (I didn’t) it will get them thinking. And to the family and friends of an abused person, I tell them to offer safe haven, whether that is their own home or a shelter. Victims typically won’t take it right away, but keep offering. It’s critical that abused people know they have an option.
7. Do you find it hard to trust people?
I thought I would have trouble trusting again, but I don’t. The big difference is I no longer tolerate anyone whose behavior confuses me. I have no tolerance for being yelled at. I remove myself from those people immediately, permanently, and without remorse.
8. Is the Kathi of today happy and healthy?
Oh my gosh, yes! I am traveling extensively and seeing countries I only imagined, I’ve made lifelong friends with women all over the world, and I am married to the love of my life. I was fortunate enough to work with kids from the slums while I lived in New Delhi, trying to teach them English and that was both heartbreaking and rewarding. Life is VERY full and good.
9. What next for Kathryn Brettell?
I’ve recently moved to Singapore. I plan to explore all the Asian countries that I am able to during the years I’m here; Cambodia, Thailand, China, etc. I have a few ideas for a second book but right now they are just a mass of short stories. And I’m looking forward to returning to Colorado in a few years when my Englishman retires. I will always be involved in some sort of women’s or girls education program, and/or domestic violence awareness groups. There are a lot more hero’s than bad guys in my rear view mirror, and I strive to pay forward all the gifts I’ve been given.
For more reviews by Tracy Shepard visit her website: https://tracyshephard.wordpress.com/
This is an engaging read. It romps right along with humor and intrigue. I was instantly attracted to smart-talking J.J., a very likable character whose wit remained consistent throughout the entire book. I found this to be a fun book that carried me into another time and place, with the added bonus of introducing enough archaeological facts to teach me something new and interesting. Highly recommend this book!
I had the opportunity to ask B.K. Crawford a few questions, to get to know her a little better. Below are her responses:
1.) J.J. Houston: Murder on Moon Street is your third published book? What was your inspiration for this story?
Yes, J.J. is my third novel. The book started out as a memoir. I recently slipped into menopause (okay, I smacked into it like soft melon on a brick wall) and the emotional turmoil left me yearning for the days of my youth. So, as a fiction writer, I thought, since I don’t own a time machine, I can at least try to whisk myself back into my childhood. What started out as a memoir, quickly morphed into an action/adventure/mystery based on some real events. (Hint: Check out The ‘Bear Slapped’ chapter).
2.) You include a fair bit of archaeological information in this book, has it always interested you? Is archaeology incorporated in all your books?
Archaeology has always been a passion and fascination for me, just as it is for J. J. Sadly, I never pursued the field although I most certainly meant to. Instead, I stayed on the sidelines as an ardent researcher. But, I don’t hear the fat lady singing, so there’s still time, and I may yet end up on a dig in some exotic place. Archaeology does play some role in most of my books, although you won’t find any reference to it in The Future Queen, which is a comedic farce based on Arthurian legend. My interest in the legend itself probably came about because of my interest in archaeology and ancient history.
3.) Your characters really come to life, are any based on real people?
Not usually, but it’s a big fat yes for Jennifer Jane and her family. As I said, the book started out as a memoir, so many of J. J.’s thoughts, interests, attitudes, and reactions are based on my own. J.J. is named after an online friend, a woman who is a real fire cracker. I chose her because I felt she and I had a lot of “down-home” qualities in common. (A big shout-out to Jenny!) Fortunately, I don’t know anyone like Hank Hornbrook, although I did borrow some of his evil qualities from people I knew in real life. “Write what you know,” I’m told.
4.) When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing most?
I fell in love with reading when Dick and Jane threw a ball to Spot. Getting lost in a good book is like taking a mini vacation. I still research a lot in archaeology and anthropology. I enjoy surfing the web and kicking back with a good novel. Fuel for the fire. When I’m reading, I often get ideas for new works, or an unexpected spark will ignite a new plot twist for a work in progress.
5.) J.J. Houston has such a whip-smart humor, which really endears her to the reader. Have you always seen the funny side of life?
Not always. It’s sad, but true, that the best comedians in life have known the greatest suffering. It’s the way we choose to judge the events in our lives that makes the difference. It’s all perspective. We laugh or we cry. I’ve experienced cycling through these phases in my life, with long periods of laughter and long periods of absolute desolation. But, if you recall, my original aim in writing J.J. was to return to a happier period in my life. It was my way of cheating misery by going back in time without the required machinery. The young years in my life were days of total abandon. No real responsibilities, no worries, and a false sense of immortality. God, I miss those days. So, there’s a good chance I’ll attempt a sequel. What a hoot.
August 14, 2015
I don't normally "do" memoirs. I'm more of a fiction reader, a die-hard fan who read the entire Harry Potter series four times and watched the movies...*gulp* I just realized I'm not willing to admit how many times I've seen the movies. But sometimes, a book just reaches out, grabs you by the shirt collar, and insists on being read.
The Olive Picker is one such book. Honestly, I didn't expect much because I was reading outside my normal genre. After reading the first few pages of The Oliver Picker, I was no longer convinced the work was so different from fiction after all, as I could barely believe what I was reading.
I found myself carrying the book from room to room, unwilling to put it down while I went about my daily routine. Driven, I read it from start to finish in one day.
Kathryn Brettell is in total command of her craft. By that I mean she is a gifted writer, an excellent strategist, extremely creative, and honest until it hurts. So much so, you had better stock up on tissues before you embark on the journey she has laid out for her readers. I read the book nearly a month ago and it still haunts my thoughts.
Whenever I think of this story, I see a beautiful little pitbull pup in my mind, a pup made to fight for its life and usually against the larger, more ferocious dogs. It's that intense.
I couldn't possibly recommend this book to the faint of heart. But for everyone else, it will blow your socks off, mess with your head, make you laugh so hard you'll leak, and break your heart only to put it together again by the time you finish.
Thank you B.K. Crawford! This was posted on her blog page The Magic Quill .