Picks and Pans Review: An Abused Wife's Cautionary Tale

updated 04/06/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/06/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Leslie Morgan Steiner |

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"If you and I met at one of our children's birthday parties ... you'd never guess my secret." So begins Steiner's chilling account of the years she spent in her 20s loving a man who battered her. Now happily remarried, a successful author (Mommy Wars) and mother of three, the Harvard grad indeed doesn't fit the stereotype—which is part of her point. Her story: Charmed by "Conor," a Michael Douglas lookalike she met on the New York City subway, she overlooked his jealousy, reserve about his past and fits of anger. By the time he choked her during a night of passion, she was too smitten to protest. As the violent incidents worsen, it's hard not to wonder (in spite of yourself), So why didn't she leave? Fear, savior fantasies and addictive love all came into play, until an especially brutal beating gave her the courage to call it quits. In a way, Steiner writes, "I was lucky. I learned to spot—and stay away from—abusive men." Her compulsively readable book should help others do the same.

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