South of Forgiveness
Thordis Elva & Tom Stranger
A woman, a man, a rape, and a hard journey from violence to reconciliation.
One ordinary spring morning in Reykjavik, Thordis Elva kisses her son and partner goodbye before boarding a plane to do an extraordinary thing: fly seven thousand miles south to meet up with the man who raped her when she was just sixteen.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, Tom Stranger nervously embarks on an equally life-changing journey, wondering whether he is worthy of this meeting.
After exchanging hundreds of searingly honest emails over eight years, Thordis and Tom decided it was time to speak face to face. Coming from opposite sides of the globe, they meet in the middle, in Cape Town, South Africa, a country that is no stranger to violence and the healing power of forgiveness.
South of Forgiveness is an unprecedented collaboration between a survivor and a perpetrator, each equally committed to exploring the darkest moment of their lives. It is a true story about being bent but not broken, of facing fear with courage, and of finding hope even in the most wounded of places.
An account of real life experience, a memoir of sorts, is hard to review – where do you start? How do you give a star rating? And that difficulty is increased when the subject matter is so personal and yet also concerns women and men, all over the world. These things I pondered for a while before I sat down and wrote my review. This is my personal opinion.
Firstly I have to mention how very courageous I think both parties are exposing their innermost thoughts and feelings to public scrutiny. Rape is an act of violence that is often very difficult to discuss, there are so many emotions surrounding the act and its aftermath; hurt, anger, fear, confusion, disgust, misguided feelings of self-blame that make this topic very controversial and difficult to speak about.
Not many will speak out and until more do the silence will continue suffocate this very real issue. Bravo to both authors for sharing their story. I hope it generates lots of discussion and creates safe spaces where others can share their experiences.
For me this is not just a story of rape, it is a powerful story of reconciliation and forgiveness. It is obvious to me that Thordis Elva has spent a lot of time working on her own mental health and that she is in a very positive and secure place, Tom Stranger…I think has a way to go on this journey or maybe that is just the opinion I formed because most of the dialogue in the book belongs to Thordis Elva, Tom Stranger seem to be a bit player in this narrative.
If you are looking for a voyeuristic account of a degrading act of violence – then you have picked up the wrong book. The act itself is not the main character, the process of finding forgiveness is. This act of forgiveness I find so alien to my way of looking at the world, of dealing with hurt…but it is evident from this account and others ( for example of victims of crime and perpetrators meeting and reconciling) that for some, this process is healing. Bravo again Thordis Elva.
If you want a very personal, almost clinical, very rational account of one woman’s powerful journey in life- then this book is for you.
Wow, this really does sound intense and powerful, Carol. I don’t know if I’d do the same. It sounds as though these are both really interesting people, too. Thanks for sharing.
A quite remarkable book Margot