Tuesday, September 28, 2010

‘Exposed: A Novel' by Ashley Weis – Book Review

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One of the most destructive industries for both the individual involved and the people observing is the pornography industry. In Ashley Weis’ debut novel, ‘Exposed: A Novel,’ she shows the industry from both sides of the lens.

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

Allyson Graham, marriage counselor and lover of love, lived a life of romance few could imagine. Until her husband’s secret addiction stared at her from the computer screen. Will she be able to forgive the man who lied to her all of those precious years?
Follow her painful story alongside the heartbreaking story of Taylor Adams, a young girl searching for her worth in the world. As Allyson struggles to forgive her husband for lying about his addiction, Taylor naively falls into the same self-destructive industry and discovers that the attention and fun is nothing like she thought it would be.

Here is the biography of the author:

Ashley Weis is continuously discovering the beauty after rain with her husband, George, after God rolled back the clouds that casted shadows over their romance. With a heart for hurting hearts, Ashley fights for love and marriages daily on her blog, More than Desire, with hope that one day every marriage will be cleansed of the stains that drench their core.

I was intrigued by this ‘Note to Readers’ that Ashley shared at the beginning of the book:

Throughout these pages you will see the aching truths hidden behind the porn industry’s mask. This is not reality for every porn star, but it is for many. I have chosen to omit language and details to protect the minds of my readers, but the porn industry can be much, much worse than it is portrayed in these pages.
Also, the wife’s story may seem melodramatic to some, but it is loosely based off of my story and the story of many women who write to me. No story is the same and some may be better or worse than the lives I’ve chosen to show in these pages, but for many of us… these stories are painfully real.

The storyline revolves around the lives of Allyson Graham, whose husband is addicted to pornography, and Taylor Adams, who becomes personally enmeshed in the industry. The chapters alternate between their stories.

Taylor had just turned eighteen, and she needed a job. The classified ad in the newspaper piqued her interest – Models 18+ needed, $500 a day. She called the phone number:

          A man’s voice said something, but I couldn’t hear.
          “Hello?” I said.
“Yes, yes,” he said as though a huge smile were on his face. “Andy Cross, how can I help you?”
“I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.”
“Are you calling about the modeling ad?”
Don’t kid yourself, Taylor, I thought.
“Are you interested in the modeling job? I bet you are. I can tell you’re beautiful just by the sound of your voice.”
Whoa, his words felt like Chapstick to sun-scorched lips. “Um, yes, would you tell me more about it?”
“Sure, would you like to meet for an in-person interview?” (p. 9)

And so began Taylor’s relationship with Andy Cross…

As time went on, Taylor’s life spiraled down. She grew cold and cynical, and cocaine, which she nicknamed ‘Cola,’ was her constant companion. It helped her cope with the lifestyle she was lured into:
To cope with the good news [Chlamydia], I spent the night with Cola. But I got so fearful of Mom finding me that I duct-taped clothes to my windows so no one could see in. I taped and taped and taped my entire apartment until I ran out of tape.
I didn’t want anyone to kidnap me. And the more I taped, the more I knew that the trees outside my window were spying on me and telling Mom everything. After I finally covered every window, I looked at my television and knew it had some kind of video camera lodged in there, watching my every move. So I draped a blanket over it. (p. 51)

On the other side of the industry, Ally discovered that her beloved husband Jessie had an addiction to pornography. That revelation broke all of her personal insecurities to the surface. They had a hard time even going to dinner:

          “Don’t lie to me. Were you looking at her?”
His shoulders dropped.
Another tear trailed my nose. 
“Were you attracted to her?”
“Don’t ask me something like that.”
“Tell me.”
“Yes, I was attracted to her, okay? I didn’t mean to look at her. She just caught my eye and you happened to look at me right when I saw her. I didn’t stare at her like you think.” (p. 57)

During that exchange, I felt sympathy for both of them.

Taylor had a cynical view about God as much as she did about every other aspect of life:

I didn’t believe in prayers. And I didn’t believe people went somewhere when they died. I figured they closed their eyes and said goodbye forever. Nothing next. No reincarnation. No heaven. No hell. No darkness. (p. 91)

Allyson’s relationship with the Lord also suffered during this trying time in her life:

Following Jesus under these circumstances would only worsen things. And I didn’t know what Jesus would do anyway, it’s not like He had to worry about being beautiful to His husband. I needed to believe in myself on this one. (p. 103)

She was shown an example of forgiveness to the extreme from her father; her mother had left him decades ago, but he never gave up on their marriage:

“I made vows to your mother thirty-seven years ago. She can break them all she wants, but I don’t plan to.”
“You mean…what?”
“I love her, Allyson. That’s never changed. Never will.”
“But all she’s done.” I raised my voice. “This. She’d lied, betrayed you, she’d made a mess of my life. How can you possibly forgive her, much less still love her?”
Dad pointed to the clouds. “Because He forgave me.” (p. 112)

Taylor, in particular, saw example after example of judgmental people who proclaimed themselves to be Christ followers. Fortunately, the Lord also brought a couple of ladies into her path who exemplified the love of Christ to her.

In the end, the lives of these two women who were precious in the Lord’s sight crossed paths. I will not divulge how or where it happened, but I was glad for the ending, albeit it was bittersweet.  
I have very limited involvement with pornography, I am grateful to say. I have always believed that it was harmful to the people personally involved in it, but it is clear that it is also devastating to the readers/viewers and their significant others. The pornography industry has long been portrayed as a ‘victimless crime.’ This fictionalized account, which includes many real scenes, makes it clear that there are victims far and wide.

This is the second book I have read with the pornography industry as the main theme; the other book is ‘Scars and Stilettos,’ an autobiography by Harmony Dust (you can read my review here), whose life was redeemed by Jesus Christ. From the small glimpse I have had of this industry, it is so harmful all the way around. I am so grateful that God has shielded me and my husband from this menace, and I pray that that shield stays intact for us. I also pray that this book will be useful for many people to see how God can redeem lives.

A unique aspect of this book is that Ally continues her story in a blog, which is accessible to buyers of this book. Another helpful piece of information is that a portion of the proceeds will be used to support three ministries dedicated to helping those harmed by pornography – CovenantEyes, an accountability software program; XXX Church, and the Pink Cross Foundation.

It is rare for Christian-themed books to address such difficult issues (although less so, thanks to authors like Mary DeMuth, who is listed in Ashley’s Acknowledgement pages). I am grateful to Ashley for bringing this tough theme to the surface and for presenting it in such a compelling and compassionate way. I encourage anyone who wants to get a better perspective on the harm that pornography foists on its participants (both those in the industry and those indulging in it) to read this well-written book.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Winslet Press and generously provided by the author for review purposes.

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