When writing THE WOODEN CHAIR, I drew on my clinical experience as a psychotherapist. Leini, the protagonist in THE WOODEN CHAIR, suffers emotional abuse from her mother, mainly
- coarse and rude attitude,
- inattention and harsh criticism,
- denigration of Leini’s personality,
- inappropriate and excessive demands,
Although I’ve read a lot about different forms of abuse, emotional abuse is the one that continues to mystify me somewhat. Some of my colleagues say that one form of abuse or another always exists when bringing up a child. If you swat your child on the rump once, it can hardly be called abuse. I’ve come to understand that it’s the severity and frequency of a parent’s behavior that determines whether it’s abuse or not. If a parent slaps a child in the face so hard the child goes deaf, it is definitely abuse. If a parent shakes a baby so violently, brain damage and death follow, it is definitely abuse.
Mira, Leini’s mother, uses emotional blackmail to make Leini agree to a risky eye operation. Mira’s promises that if Leini is beautiful once her squinty eye has been straightened then Mira will love her. The implication is clear; Mira can’t love her own child if she’s imperfect.
When Leini is about nine years old, Mira again calls her by an ugly name. To Leini, this is once too often. For the first time in her life she dares stand up to her mother, telling Mira her name is not twerp, not brat, never to call her by these names again. From this moment for the rest of her mother’s life Leini calls her Mira.
People often ask from where the title THE WOODEN CHAIR comes. While I was planning the book, one of the working titles was The One-Eyed Girl, which is pretty terrible, I think. As I was continued writing, the title THE WOODEN CHAIR jumped off the page at me. Leini tries to cuddle on her mother’s lap, but finds it hard and uncomfortable, like the wooden chair in their kitchen. The title was right there in mother’s lap. Mira’s unwelcoming arms, her lack of response to Leini’s need for affection constitute emotional abuse. When Mira let’s slip a term of endearment “my baby,” Leini is filled with joy, but doesn’t quite believe she heard right. She asks Mira to repeat what she said. Mira says it again, but leaves out “my baby.” This wouldn’t constitute emotional abuse if it happened occasionally, but Mira speaks words of endearment more by accident, in the presence of other people to make a good impression as the caring mother, never alone with Leini. Mira withholds expressions of love and affection, thus emotionally abuses Leini. She uses blackmail to obtain what she wants Leini to do. As a mother of two now adult children, this kind of behavior makes me shudder.
As is often the case with these children, Leini grows up emotionally needy, afraid to trust people. Her courage is remarkable in that she refuses to perpetuate her mother’s behavior on her own children. Leini gives herself the means to recover from the trauma the abuse has left and to put stop the abuse with her generation.
The Wooden Chair
Rayne E. Golay
Genre: Family saga/literary fiction
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publication
Date of Publication: May 15, 2013
Number of pages: 317
Word Count: 100,00
Winner of the Royal Palm Award, Florida Writers Association
Set against the background of the Finno-Russian winter war, this story starts I Helsinki in 1943 and spans over fifty years of Leini Bauman’s life.
As a child, Leini stands ready to do anything to win her mother Mira’s love. This effort costs her the sight in one eye and as a result, causes her to endure bullying from kids her own age. As a teenager, with her Grandpa’s help, she undergoes one more surgery to straighten her eye, but the psychological scar of the events of her childhood remain.
Leini struggles to break free of Mira’s tyranny by leaving her native Helsinki to study psychology at Geneva University. A few years later, married, herself to a wonderful man, about to become a mother, she is determined with her own children not to repeat Mira’s behavior. With the help of a psychiatrist, she labors through the pains of past hurts to become a nurturing and loving mother and wife, as well as a successful professional, as she grows from victim to victor over adversity. Can her efforts lead her to the one thing she needs to discover the most - the ability to forgive her mother?
About the Author:
Whenever I pause and think about my past, I realized I’ve lived three lives in one. Some people are lucky to spend their whole life in the village or town or country where they were born. They’re surrounded by relatives and friends they’ve known since childhood, have deep roots. I believe they are very rich. My life has been made of a different cloth with hues of the rainbow. It’s been about change and adaptation.
I was born in Helsinki, Finland. For various reasons I changed schools three times before Highschool. When I was very small, my mother used to read to me. She helped me put letters together to form words. As she was done reading “A Thousand and One Nights” my passion was born. From then on, I read everything with the printed word: matchboxes, newspapers, pamphlet and books, of course. I was no more than six years old when my father obtained a library card for me. Believe me, that was one of the happiest days of my childhood. To this day, I read at least three books a week. In school, I always had high grades in composition and wanted to be a journalist, but my parents had other plans. I got a Masters degree in psychology, was certified as addictions counselor in England after studies in the United States.
Skilled in languages, from the age of fifteen I translated dialogues in Hollywood movies from English into Finnish and Swedish. This, my first paying job, came through my father, who was the Nordic managing director of a prominent American film company.
After graduation, I married, had two children in rapid succession. My then husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, so that’s where we moved with our two wonderful children.
In Geneva, I worked in a multinational company as an addictions counselor with responsibilities for all of the company’s European subsidiaries. During this time, I wrote two non-fiction books: one about alcoholism, another about dysfunction in the workplace. I also wrote the script to “Something of The Danger That Exists,” a 50 minute film, used within the company as part of an educational program, which I facilitated. In my function, I was a frequent speaker on dependence at conferences and business groups. As I oversaw company sites throughout Europe and the then East Block countries, I’m fortunate to have traveled extensively.
As an avid reader, I’ve read most American, French and Russian classics, modern literature and poetry. It may seem that my books are autobiographical, particularly THE WOODEN CHAIR, but that’s not so. I believe in writing about what I know, so my life has parallels in Leini’s story, but I guess you have to read the book to find out more.
My whole life I’ve longed for the sun and warmth. When opportunity presented itself, I took up residence in Florida. I live here with my partner, my best friend and husband.
The award winning novel THE WOODEN CHAIR is my second book. At present, I’m editing my third story.
Every book is a journey so enjoy the trip.
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