Broken Nek: Finding the family you never knew you always wanted: by Katie Albrecht and Mary Albrecht
Every once in a while, I get an email or message from a self-published/small-press published author asking for a review. Without mainstream publicity, sometimes these messages come from people whose books do not appeal to me, or I find the professionalism of the request lacking to a degree that it turns me off of working with the person altogether (cue: eye roll).
That said, I have been fortunate to work with some amazing authors, who have taken the time to reach out about their books. Sometimes traditional book publicity washes out some really excellent authors, who might be published in smaller, independent publishing houses (or even self-published). Having a big contract doesn’t necessarily make a book a good book, and I want to make an effort to channel some reading power to these smaller authors/houses.
Katie Albrecht is another author who reached out recently. Katie Albrecht reached out to me by email, offering a copy of her book that she co-wrote with her aunt, Mary Albrecht, about their mutual experiences of abuse with a man named Ken, Katie’s father/Mary’s brother.
I have to say, Broken Nek just absolutely blew me out of the water. I mean, this is an excellent book. Memoir is such a tough subject, especially when we’re dealing with varying types of abuse. I found both of the Albrechts’ voices to be well-blended, yet distinct.
Katie and Mary meet at a funeral, and were not close at all prior to this. Both heard bad things about each other from other family members (perhaps, in their enabling of this mutual abuser). For example, Katie had heard that Mary was aloof, and Mary had heard that Katie was somewhat of a troublemaker. By taking a chance, Katie reaches out to Mary in her hour of need, when she decides to distance herself from her father’s abusive behavior. Mary struggles with how much to disclose to Katie about her own experience, and what wounds are re-opened by helping her.
What I found to be most poignant and moving about this memoir is witnessing both Mary and Katie’s struggle to set good family boundaries. When people start to distance themselves from an abuser (or even just acknowledge that abuse happened), both the abuser (and enabling people in their circle) can oftentimes push back when people want to set expectations of what is appropriate behavior. People become accustomed to abuse victims being silent, “playing along” with certain behaviors, and walking on eggshells. Any disruption of these patterns is often met with negativity.
I truly marvel at this impromptu and powerful connection of family. We often talk about courage of people who face their abusers, but what is different about this memoir is how it shows the strength of validation. Validation can be found in therapy, self-help books, and even close friends/partners. But, truly, does it get more validating than a fellow victim of the same abuser? Both Mary and Katie grew up in invalidating environments, and through this book, I feel humbled to have seen the courage and strength they found in each other.
I seriously can’t recommend this book enough, and I hope you will pick it up at your local bookstore or your library to read!
Source: The authors of this book were kind enough to gift me a copy.
Are you in the Milwaukee area? Katie and Mary are hosting a free talk at the North Shore Library on Tuesday, April 30th! Find out more at the Albrechts’ website:
P.S. One of my goals is to make a reading guide for Master’s of Social Work (MSW) students and Counseling students, as I think the book is illustrative of so many key parts of mental health support, abuse support, and where peer support fits in. If you are a social worker or a mental health professional, let me know if you would like me to send you a copy of the discussion guide when I’m done!