A painful memoir: ‘Purple Orchid List’ shows happiness at the end of despairAfter a series of painful relationships, Jen Waters set out to prove definitively that the man of her dreams did not exist, creating a list of impossible traits a man would have to have for her to marry again. “The Purple Orchid List” tells the story of that list and the man who met the qualifications.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
After a series of painful relationships, Jen Waters set out to prove definitively that the man of her dreams did not exist, creating a list of impossible traits a man would have to have for her to marry again.
“The Purple Orchid List” tells the story of that list and the man who met the qualifications.
But the memoir is more than a simple modern fairy tale with a tidy happy ending — it also tells the darker story of Waters’ molestation as a child and her three unsuccessful marriages.
“What I went through as an 11-year-old, (it) affects everything that happens throughout your whole life,” Waters said. “It’s pretty dark in some places.”
“The Purple Orchid List” is available in electronic form only for $9.99 at Amazon.com. However, the “click to look inside” function will enable readers to get the first four chapters for free.
The book is a memoir, and as such, everything contained in it actually happened. It is not, however, a tell-all book, though Waters acknowledges that it is disturbing.
To illustrate how her abuse resulted in a host of conflicting negative emotions, Waters describes the three parts of her childhood self as separate individuals in an imaginary garden.
One of the little girls, Myself, is strong, untouched by the abuse, cunning enough to hide from the abuser and scornful of weakness. The other, Shh-e, is a heap of battered bones and wounded flesh, a child victim so badly broken she cannot even speak.
Then there is Waters herself, left to reconcile the proud Myself and the shattered Shh-e and try to become whole again.
“It’s all me, but … a lot of times, there’s things I’d like to say that I can’t say — but Myself can say them,” Waters explained. “I survived because I had Shh-e and Myself. I survived all of this because I could compartmentalize.”
The subject of the text is dark, particularly in the earlier parts of the work.
While she was working on getting her book published, Waters received several rejection letters, but one of them in particular stood out to her. The editor wrote that the book was great, but he felt “uncomfortably close” to what he’d read.
“You should not get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you read some of this stuff,” Waters said. “… it’s a very tough read at times.”
That’s the first part of the text, in which Waters describes being molested by a family friend and a series of bad relationships and self-destructive behavior.
The latter portions of the book are lighter and more positive, with generous dollops of humor.
They describe her current husband, Jack, who met every one of the qualifications on her list of impossibilities, from being 6 feet 5 inches or taller — he’s 6 feet 7 inches— to sending her white roses.
Waters and her husband of nine years live in Jamestown with their three sons. She is a massage therapist, and he is a freight dispatcher.
Waters is already working on a sequel to “Purple Orchid,” while also recording an audio version of the memoir itself. She also maintains a Facebook page for her book.
“It’s about surviving abuse,” Waters said. “I refuse to be that victim. I won’t do it, because that gives them too much power.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
reached at 701-952-8453
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