The Beast I Loved by Robert Davidson is a non-fiction horror account of spousal abuse. As the subtitle clearly states, it is “A Battered Woman’s Desperate Struggle to Survive.” Published in 2018, in the preface the author provides a context for the book’s publication with an account of the TIME OUT movement in December 2017. This book doesn’t need a context to report the understated horrors of this case that drew national attention in 1996; the actions described remain always horrible, criminal, and a crime against humanity no matter the current attention paid to developing social trends. Davidson points out that this book focuses on the important attention paid to the narrower phenomena of Battered Women’s Syndrome expressed through “learned helplessness.” As if the horrors June Briand were not terrible enough in their own right, she was then abused further by a slow-moving near non-responsive justice system when she was imprisoned for taking extreme measures while attempting to survive and protect her children. In the sense that this novel contributes to the overall movement for increased empowerment for women in a search for equality, this is a novel of social justice. Readers will discover that this novel has its own niche and stands alone in a genre of non-fiction domestic abuse horror.
To support the credibility of this non-fiction account, Davidson uses actual names of people many readers will be familiar with. Peter Jennings of ABC News, leaders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and high-profile lawyers are included in the hard-to-pronounce popular term “fact-checkable.” There is a helpful resources section. Davidson presents interesting information in the author’s notes section that explains his difficulties as a male author in gaining acceptance by principals to tell this story. I feel this is a NSFW novel not due to crude or graphic language. That would be superfluous with these descriptions of abuse. It is because some of the accounts may make a reader shocked and nauseous to the point one could not continue work. Read this one at home.
Davidson’s skill as a writer kept me turning pages until the end in this one-session read. I resisted the urge to turn to the end and discover early the eventual outcome of the case of June Briand. I knew the victim(s) would survive. Even as I read I wanted to enjoy the author’s investigation of the justice system in New Hampshire. In a nation that struggles every day in a conflict between States Rights and Federal Sovereignty, individuals can become extremely depressed as they stare from confinement facilities at States that would decide judicial cases with more compassion and even-handedness. The obvious victim, in this case, was June Briand. Her children were also victims. As June Briand would later state in an address she made during court proceedings, she considered her abuser and husband, Jimmy Briand, the person she killed, a victim.
Liberal US interests frequently obtain national exposure as they mount campaigns for social justice that rely on blaming childhood trauma for present-day criminal behavior. This general reliance on “psychobabble” attract derision from conservative social factions. That is because in attempting to appear on CNN and attract the most attention in the least amount of time available to them, advocates on all sides rely on generalized language that becomes meaningless as it morphs into different forms on late night comedy shows. But when we unpack individual cases such as Briand’s, how can we fail to see the truth of some liberal assertions? The abuse suffered by Briand was abuse that began in childhood and escalated in violence both physical and mental until it (literally) exploded.
June Briand is not a currently a person on the national stage garnering attention. She is attempting to get on with her life. Her case deserves attention as part of campaigns to discourage and eliminate these types of behavior. If human nature is such that we will always have these types of aberrant behavior, we should at least develop better systems for early detection leading to a society that emphasizes social justice rather than social vengeance. Briand is to be commended for lending accounts of her private struggles to highlight social problems.
I gave this novel a five-star Amazon rating and highly recommend it. I read it for free on Kindle Unlimited (KU). Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans It is worth much more than the Amazon purchase price of USD 2.99.