In 2008, during the Global Financial crisis, Kathi survived being assaulted, beaten and left for dead. A step kid, Kathi grew up with all the confidence of a road flattened squirrel, but this near death experience changed her completely.
The blurb of this remarkable read does not describe the life that author Kathi Brettell has endured and survived. It is powerful, honest and really quite amazing.
Kathi’s childhood would have been idyllic, if it wasn’t for her violent step-father. She and her sister Debbie were raised on a farm and Kathi developed a skill for making money.
Some funny stories, such as when she sought information about sex mingled with a brutal account of what she has endured makes The Olive Picker an outstanding read.
Told partly with an interview with her therapist and mostly of her own words, this grabbed my interest early on and was a satisfying days read.
It is a disturbing tale, moving from one drama to another, Kathi’s life changes from interesting and disappointment to one of complete tragedy.
It is hard to review an account of someones life experiences. What one imagines it must have been like to live, must have been harder to write and re-live in something that is going to be made so public. To even have to give it a star rating just makes me feel ill at ease.
A story of survival and strength I have a tremendous respect and love for the woman that is Kathryn Brettell. She is truly a remarkable and brave woman. An inspiration.
1. What encouraged you to write about your experience in such detail?
I recognized fairly soon after The Event that people had a lot of questions about what had happened to me. I didn’t avoid them, but I felt uncomfortable with my answers, primarily because the little I could tell over a cup of coffee didn’t adequately tell the story. Also, I believed there were other people who would relate to my story and in finding common ground it might give them strength.
2. Is there anything you left out that you wish now you had included?
3. What kind of woman were you before The Event, and what are you like now?
The old Kathi lacked self confidence. She felt undeserving; someone who picked up shit, picked olives, i.e. the least of us. Now, I am not afraid to meet and speak with anyone, I smile easily and often, I stand taller. It’s like getting a new pair of glasses – I see things now that were previously hidden from me.
4. You don’t really talk of your families reaction to what happened, what does your mother think and has she read your book?
My sisters all read the manuscript prior to publication and are all very supportive. We are very close. My mother declined to read it before, but has since purchased a copy. Her only comment after reading it was that she always knew I was a writer. I believe she did the best she was capable of during those years. She gave me life, and more, and has finally confirmed all the incidents I wrote about in my childhood as true. My former sisters-in-law have read the book and are 100% supportive. The response from extended family and friends has been all positive.
5. Have you used your experiences to help other women in similar situations?
Yes, that’s been the most rewarding aspect of writing this book. I’ve learned that there are many, many people who, like me, have trouble identifying abusive behavior. It’s not an easy leap to think that emotional and/or verbal abuse might escalate to physical abuse. The Olive Picker has been a great “conversation starter”, at book clubs, women’s events, and just one-on-one discussions.
6.As a survivor what would be your advice to those in the same predicaments?
My best advice is to talk about abuse openly. Peeling the curtain back and saying – out loud – what is happening, takes a lot of its power away. Even if the person doesn’t realize right away (I didn’t) it will get them thinking. And to the family and friends of an abused person, I tell them to offer safe haven, whether that is their own home or a shelter. Victims typically won’t take it right away, but keep offering. It’s critical that abused people know they have an option.
7. Do you find it hard to trust people?
I thought I would have trouble trusting again, but I don’t. The big difference is I no longer tolerate anyone whose behavior confuses me. I have no tolerance for being yelled at. I remove myself from those people immediately, permanently, and without remorse.
8. Is the Kathi of today happy and healthy?
Oh my gosh, yes! I am travelling extensively and seeing countries I only imagined, I’ve made lifelong friends with women all over the world, and I am married to the love of my life. I was fortunate enough to work with kids from the slums while I lived in New Delhi, trying to teach them English and that was both heartbreaking and rewarding. Life is VERY full and good.
9. What next for Kathryn Brettell?
I’ve recently moved to Singapore. I plan to explore all the Asian countries that I am able to during the years I’m here; Cambodia, Thailand, China, etc. I have a few ideas for a second book but right now they are just a mass of short stories. And I’m looking forward to returning to Colorado in a few years when my Englishman retires. I will always be involved in some sort of women’s or girls education program, and/or domestic violence awareness groups. There are a lot more hero’s than bad guys in my rear view mirror, and I strive to pay forward all the gifts I’ve been given.
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