Review of The Other Side of Him
A grad student dates a debonair doctor with a dark side in this historical novel.
Just after World War II, Claire Wagner is excited to be in Berkeley, California, on scholarship to get her master’s in social work. She worked hard for her achievements, growing up in a Chicago housing project with a German immigrant mother after her father abandoned the family early on. Claire’s brother, Tom, now based in the Bay Area, sets her up on a blind date with Greg Lombard, whom he met at a local gym. Greg turns out to be a handsome thoracic surgeon in his late 30s. He takes her to fancy restaurants, which she enjoys despite his tendency to order for her. She also likes Greg’s kisses, but his controlling ways soon escalate, and he eventually falsely accuses her of sleeping with a doctor at a nearby hospital where she has an internship.
After Claire ends the relationship, Greg stalks her, even following her when she visits New York City, where her mother and her second husband now live. Upon return to California, Claire gets a restraining order, but Greg proves unrelenting. Eventually, a horribly violent encounter changes her life. Overall, this is an accomplished first novel. Memoirist Rene (Becoming Alice, 2008) notes that it’s “inspired by true events,” and it’s infused with authenticity, from the mouthwatering mentions of German cuisine (such as the small sausages known as
Würstchen) to the pre-feminist commentary when Claire focuses on her studies and career aspirations instead of romance. Rene also weaves engaging social work cases into the narrative, underscoring Claire’s passion for her profession. Although Greg’s villainy is a bit over-the-top (among other things, he’s routinely abusive to patients and gets hit with a malpractice suit), he’s sadly not outside the realm of possibility.
A touching and sometimes-chilling survivor’s tale
by Diane Donovan,
Editor and Senior Reviewer
Midwest Book Review
The Other Side of Him paints a rough urban scene with only a few strokes of the pen: a girl is traversing her urban ghetto home, switchblade in hand, protected by her attitude, her weapon, and the fact that her big brother's protective wrath is well-known in the neighborhood.
But Claire isn't a girl without dreams: she's determined to go to college rather than work after graduating high school, even if her 'old country' immigrant mother opposes her goals. And a scholarship is the route that will make her dreams come true. That's the introduction of The Other Side of Him, but what is to follow is anything but an even course of action.
Alice Rene crafts exact, realistic settings that are one of the strengths in her story line ("The three of us ate the dinner Mama cooked in the afternoon between sessions at her Singer sewing machine. It could’ve been schnitzel or gulash or knackwurst with sauerkraut. Tonight it was meatballs.") She fast-forwards through Claire's college years, her brother's departure for a successful job in San Francisco, and a stubborn mother's refusal to leave the Chicago which has become home to her and her German friends. All this is presented in Chapter One!
When Claire begins dating a doctor, there are early warning signs on their first date which portend trouble for the up-and-coming girl studying for her master's degree in Berkeley. ("I wasn’t on an equal footing with him, but I didn’t care. This was fun”) And as she encounters troubled cases in her social work career, she acknowledges the personal work she needs to do to stay on top ("I need to work with myself—figure out how to deal with people I’d really like to murder.”)
As the juxtaposition between pros and cons increases in the relationship, Claire finds herself learning in ways she never expected: through friendships, man troubles, and the evolution of a controlling stalker who weasels his way into her world despite all her efforts to recognize and mitigate the threat.
Without giving away any more of the story line, suffice it to say that The Other Side of Him goes where few fictional accounts achieve in identifying not just the evolution of a dangerous relationship, but how a smart, successful girl could find herself entrapped despite her most street-smart senses.
Can Claire face her greatest challenge and emerge intact? Not without a series of unexpected encounters which make The Other Side of Him a powerful recommendation for readers of fictional stories of abuse who want the superior (and more revealing) device of 'show' over the more common approach of 'tell'.
by Daniel Casey
There’s little difference between the 1950s and now, at least when it comes to the protection of women from male predators. Such is the grim realization reading Alice Rene’s novel The Other Side of Him. Yet, there is a brilliance to Rene’s novel in that it shows just how a young, determined woman can persevere creating the foundation for a life for herself on her own terms...Rene writes Claire with precision (her reaction to her trauma is vivid as well as her ability to overcoming it), she depicts Chicago and San Francisco with a stark but endearing realism, and she leaves it up to the reader to garner lessons from the narrative. The Other Side of Him isn’t a novel of a survivor but of a victor who endures. Read full review
Praise from Amazon readers for
The Other Side of Him...
Alice Rene's novel is excellent! An interesting and suspenseful story with a vivid portrayal of characters, times and places. Under an intriguing title, each chapter leaves the reader with a question of what will happen next? I could not put it down and did not want it to end. I liked especially the writing style. Clear and succinct with every word meaningful and well chosen. Congratulations to the author!
— Zenon Neumark
In the skilled-at-writing hands of Alice Rene, what could have been a dreary account of fear and intimidation has become a work filled with grace notes: compassion, kindness of friends, understanding, return of trust. Ms. Rene goes back many decades to a time when higher education for young women gave them tools to shape their own lives. The challenges were both professional and personal: how to stand up, take charge, and yet form the love attachments so much sought for them by their families. Her heroine, Claire, takes strength from a traditional past but also rises on her own skills to take responsibility for career and courtship.
Another great book from Alice Rene. Suspenseful, authentic and hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed this second book from Alice Rene -- entertaining and a great read!
In the skilled-at-writing hands of Alice Rene, what could have been a dreary account of fear and intimidation has become a work filled with grace....The Other Side of Him offers richness, delicacy, lively characters, a plot that can chill you, and a satisfying visit to the era when roles changed for young women, at last women.