This Writer Gal

Kakul Ehsan Butt

Nothing Can Hurt You

I wouldn’t consider below as spoilers but if you want to delve into this book without knowing anything, then please don’t read further.

I have always wondered who the title is referring to. Is it referring to the victim who is now dead and can’t be hurt anymore, or the murderer, who got away with it because nothing can touch him?

The novel begins in the wake of a murdered college girl called Sara Morgan. Her boyfriend, Blake Campbell had been found guilty and acquitted due to pleading temporary insanity. He spends a short time in a recovery centre and then is restored back into the community, as if nothing ever happened. The novel is split into chapters, each titled with a woman’s name, to provide twelve fresh retelling of Sara Morgan’s story, with the last being Sara’s chapter. Each woman has a connection to Sara Morgan, whether she is the half-sister, a reporter or the one who found the body in the woods. Each one is either seeking justice, or an explanation, or the author is shedding light on their lives post Sara’s murder. In one of the chapters, Sara’s sister finds Blake Campbell in a stable family life, with a nice house and a job. It’s frustrating to see how he has gotten a better deal than Sara’s family.

In a chapter titled “Juliet”, a junior reporter tries to find a connection between Sara Morgan and a local serial killer, John Logan. The public soon loses interest in him and his victims, but he is still accessible to people who want to get to know him. In another chapter, Jessica is a teenager who writes regularly to John Logan. It is clear that Jessica knows who he is and doesn’t care whether he is guilty or not. She readily shares details of her life with him. The letters become more intimate as the correspondence between them grow. It begs a question that who is to be blamed for allowing vulnerable individuals an easy access to the most dangerous people.

The last chapter is dedicated to Sara Morgan. Sara is portrayed as a regular teenager, enjoying the last summer before going away to college. She experiences sexual assault and deals with it in a way that is familiar to most women, including myself. Sara’s friend Dawn has had her own fair share of experiences; grown men yelling obscenities to her in the streets and being called an offensive word on a school bathroom wall. Sara’s experience of sexual assault has no relation to her murder, but it shows the normalisation of sexual assaults in the society, putting women in unsafe and vulnerable positions.

Nicola Maye Goldberg creates a community of women whose independent voices give us the readers something to ponder and think about, long after we have finished reading. It certainly makes for a good post-read group discussion on the subject matters such as gender violence and sexual assaults post #MeToo movement. I consider this an important book for women to read and use this book as a tool to open a platform to discuss issues. It is certainly a book I would recommend to my friends.

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