The Whipping Boy
J. Scott Bronson
This is the story of a father, a mother and their two children, an11-year-old son and a nearly 8-yr-old daughter who is about to bebaptized. The couple have been married 14 years. On the surface, itis the ideal family.
The title, referring in part to the son who is the target of bullies,suggests otherwise. At first, I had trouble with the title. I thoughtit had something to do with the opening sequence and felt it might beinappropriate. This unsettling first thought became the least of myconcerns.
The story starts with a Sunday morning lesson on the atonement. Theteacher is capable and powerful, traits mostly lost on the youngPrimary class. Discipline is not a problem because it is not anissue. Wandering questions are immediately redirected to the topic athand. The teacherï¿½s presentation is riveting and leaves a lastingimpression on a few of the young children. Anyone who has taught atchurch will relate.
The other members of the family are also introduced through theirchurch settings. And then this short book takes us from the Sundaymorning Primary class through a week of life and reality thatculminates in a Thursday afternoon tragedy and a fitful night intoFriday change.
With a Sunday afternoon spirituality check, followed by five days ofpractical application, this story presents an almost touching formulafor life. But, as with much of reality, it is such an illusion.
This is really the story about people wanting to change, not quiteknowing how to take the first step. It is a very personal story. Thereader comes to know these characters, because they are very familiar,exposed, and personally afraid to change.
As the facade begins to crack, the ideal husband and wife relationshipbetween the elders quorum instructor and his Primary President wifeisnï¿½t as it seems. The husband is by profession a therapist, upset,knowing what he needs to do but not willing to do it. The wife, whoappears to righteously have her act together, suffers from deep-seatedinsecurity because of an event in her past that hinders theirrelationship.
This is an up close and personal look at their shortcomings, withsomething for everyone, equal opportunity button-pushing, and close tohome.
So close to home that the honest reader will squirm, because thespectrum of relationships will point inside and gnaw at theconscience.
Luscious descriptions of the characterï¿½s inner thoughts cause one towonder how closely the author analyzed the readerï¿½s own marriagebefore he wrote this book. The story includes much misjudging, mindreading, and a very real inability to face up to reality while tryingto put on a real world face.
Even more than a reality check, this is an imperfection check.Peeling back the veneer layer by layer into the deepest and mostintimate thoughts of the characters, words are spoken that need to bewithdrawn. Statements are misunderstood. Perfect imperfection isexposed.
The portrayal of the mind games is exquisite. The characters workeach other over very well, both verbally and mentally. Or was thatthe author working me over?
& & & & "That's not what I said."
& & & & "I know it's not what you said, but clearly it's what you meant."
& & & & It was at moments like these when Susan wished she had the lack of compunction that Marcus had that allowed him to swear.
& & & & Susan finally looked into Marcus's eyes, and the pain he saw there was bitter, and deeply felt.
& & & & Marcus wanted to apologize. He wanted to crumble beneath the weight of her wounded gaze. He wanted to turn back time. But he couldn't do any of those things. He couldn't speak. He couldn't even look away.& .& .& .
& & & & Then Susan stood up and left the room leaving a cold, dark void to form in the pit of Marcus's stomach.
& & & & Marcus swore and raged at himself in his heart and in his mind.
& & & & Susan snorted a wry chuckle at herself. She was being unfair. More than unfair, she was being cruel. She put herself on the sliding scale and found herself careening toward the shallow end. She sighed and fought back tears. The effort caused pain to clench at the top of her throat.
The very honesty that makes this book so good is what makes it sodifficult to read. "I don't know if I want to look at myself thatclosely." 
At first, readers will deny things such as this could be happening intheir own homes, schools, and neighborhoods, all the while realizingthey do occur on a regular basis.
This surface story is etched and set against the backdrop of theatonement with all of its power and glory. It is so unsettling. Thepowerful allusion to the atonement, just another Sunday lesson atfirst, remained nearly hidden, but became so obvious in the end.
It was as if I were staring at the mirror and not seeing anything.Because I didn't want to see what was there.
This is not light reading, but it is excellent and thought provokingreading. And well written.
Larry Jackson lt;firstname.lastname@example.org;
© 2002 Larry Jackson < email@example.com >