Publication Date: May 20, 2014
In Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn, Mazie Reynolds married one man but is living with another. She covers herself head to toe to hide the bruises and has a plan to escape knowing that each outburst has the potential to be the last she endures. When Cullen turns his anger toward their young daughter, Mazie knows it’s time to run. Can she keep ahead of Cullen and save herself and her young daughter?
The author, Julie Frayn, gave me a copy of this novel as an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) in exchange for my review. Content may have changed between the copy I received and the version published.
Mazie Baby was an incredibly hard book to read, but upon closing the cover you know that you’ve read brilliance on paper. Frayn has a gift of words and the ability to write incredibly vivid prose. While usually able to separate myself in a work from the violence and abuse, I spent most of the first part of Mazie Baby shaking and crying. Frayn’s starts the novel with the smug neighbor speaking with Maize at her mailbox noting that she is covered head to toe. There’s a moment when the police are an option. Mazie knows the anger she’ll face, but knows the police can’t protect them so declines charges. The idea that this abused woman is incredibly alone resonates with the reader and when the abuser grabs their daughter and basically declares her old enough to abuse, the sense of urgency is complete. This is a woman who realizes that this is no way to live and knows there’s a better way out than death if only she can find an escape.
Julie Frayn takes us into the legal system with this perpetually abused woman and she reflects on the good Cullen, the charming Cullen. Why do women go back? Mazie, no longer lured by the charm, witnesses the by-play between her husband and daughter and relates her own story for the reader. Like R.H. Ramsey, she gives readers a very raw look about an issue for which people not in the situation have too little empathy, and often don’t take seriously enough. We say “If she was really in danger, she’d leave.” Leaving isn’t so easy, especially when you have a child and you need to make sure your child is protected from your abuser. Its better to be there with them and deflect the anger than to risk them being the only target. As I write this, I’m crying again. This was such a well-written, soul-wrenching, heart-breaking read.
When they make their escape, the get-away feels less like vengeance and more as a new bruise on Maize’s soul. She knows that she has to do what she must to escape and keep her daughter, Ariel, safe. Ariel has a bit of a soliloquy at the end of the novel speaking to the plight of victims of abuse who do what they must and become victims of the system. Mazie and Ariel do try to move on, but the message is clear, they never will. In the second half of the novel Frayn shows the reader how hard it is to pick up the pieces and trust, especially if the method in which you left makes for a foray into the courts and legal system.
The authentic feeling of Mazie Baby cannot be faulted. Readers closing the novel will have the sense of having read something truly real and important for those of us lucky enough to have not been in this situation to hear. Readers may wonder if Mazie truly had no other option and if she did or didn’t isn’t the point. SHE felt she didn’t. What would you do in her shoes? Would you fight back or would you plot an escape that is complete? Could you share custody with an abusive partner leaving the child at the mercy of fits of anger and maybe dying at your place? I am not a fan of the subject matter, but cannot deny how important this work of fiction can be. Frayn’s talent for the dark side of life shines bright in the smooth flow of Mazie Baby.
Mazie Baby’s beautiful cover was done by Frayn’s sister, Carolyn Frayn. Readers can visit Carolyn Frayn’s blog at artofbreastcancer.ca.
Julie Frayn is a Calgary-based author. For more reviews of books by Julie Frayn on this website, read Pocketful of Bones, Goody One Shoe, Two Wins and an Honourable Mention, It isn’t Cheating if He’s Dead, Suicide City: A Love Story and A Trio of Unrelated Stories. I hope you enjoy her books as much as I do.
Read an excerpt and buy Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn on