Review: Freak by Rebecca O’Donnell

I’m back this week with another book review. Normally I don’t review memoir, but I found Rebecca’s story so remarkable that I had to share it. Freak: The True Story of an Insecurity Addict by Rebecca O’Donnell is not a story for the faint-hearted. Rebecca’s harrowing tale of appalling abuse from childhood to her adult years, two failed marriages, and multiple personal struggles is nothing short of tragic. Rebecca’s resulting insecurities, so common in victims of domestic abuse, shaped much of her early life.

Art, however, helped Rebecca cope. Rebecca was a remarkable artist from an early age. From astonishing her art professors as a freshman in college to teaching art therapy to troubled girls, Rebecca’s talent as an artist shaped her life, too. A strong believer in the cleansing power of art, Rebecca used her art to help herself heal. She encourages everyone to find that emotional release, whatever form it takes.

Surprisingly, Freak is not a depressing story. Rebecca’s dark humor permeates every page, making the book a shocking mix of tragedy and freedom. Rebecca’s perspective is my favorite part of the book. Even in high school, she used her pain to help others who suffered from abuse. She found the strength, in spite of her personal hurdles, to protect her children. She taught art therapy to liberate young girls.

The story is held together by Rebecca’s examination of her insecurity. Insecurity crippled her, she says. It made her desperate for approval and unable to see anything good about herself. But Rebecca found hope through honesty and courage. Honesty in her art, honesty in admitting to herself that she had been damaged by others around her, but that damage did not define her. Her courage is self-evident. The courage to believe she had value, that she was worth loving, enabled her to find freedom.

Photo by Anre Fuentes of Urbanized Foot Photography

I was thrilled to find this book is also remarkably well-written. In addition to being a great artist, Rebecca is also a talented writer. Subtext abounds. Her impacting vocabulary, the cohesive narrative, and the sheer intentionality of her writing make an engrossing story that much more so. Well-placed wit with a great sense of timing make this story an excellent example of voice in writing.

Wonderfully, this book is not an embittered rant against the evils inflicted on abuse victims. It’s not a pity-seeking tell-all, nor is it a prideful accounting of all Rebecca endured. Freak is a tribute to the fragility and resiliency of the human spirit. It’s proof there is always hope. It’s proof that love and hope can change your life, no matter what life you live.

Freak receives my very highest recommendation. Visit Rebecca’s site here for her blog, links to purchase Freak, Rebecca’s art, and more information about art therapy.

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