Kiss, born in 1926, recalls a home life in Chicago devoid of affection. She didn’t realize what was missing until she visited the relaxed, loving homes of her friends. Lacking support, Kiss leaves home as a teen and soon marries a kind man nicknamed Bud. But the kindness evaporates when Bud gets drunk, and Kiss becomes the target of his rage.
A mother of four by age 23, Kiss realizes she must escape with the children after being continually bloodied, battered and even raped by a drunken Bud, leading to a fifth child. She divorces, marries Joe, and has two more children. When Joe is transferred to the small town of Morris, Ill., Kiss finds her true calling through We Care, an organization that helps the needy with temporary shelter, food, and emergency financial assistance.
Beginning as secretary, the author eventually gets promoted to top leadership of We Care and is honored for her work. She credits her lifelong belief in God and her own experience in suffering with her ability to be compassionate to others.
Written in the third person, Kiss’ story is compelling for its honest portrayal of abuse. Having kept diaries from a young age, she enhances the memoir with highly visual details of the settings and people in her life. Despite numerous copyediting errors, the book is uplifting and absorbing. One small quibble is that because the book is written chronologically, readers must go a long way before learning that there is light at the end of this intense tunnel.
While the memoir will likely hold the most meaning for family members and the townspeople of Morris, its appeal to a broader readership lies in its vibrant message that it’s possible to rise up despite being beaten down.
Also available as an ebook.