Review by Grady Harp
Tim Hutchinson has essentially written two books in this one volume titled PAINFUL SECRETS: one is a profoundly moving study of a young boy sexually abused by a friend of his completely dysfunctional family, who finds no support from a distant and abusive father and an uninvolved mother, a member of a large family where the children are treated as excess unwanted baggage and spend their childhoods in multiple `shelters’ – in other words a completely emotionally abandoned and isolated boy who turns to crime out of need for financial support and as a means of reacting with uncontrollable anger and physical abuse to lash out at a world that refuses to accept him. The other book is a version of a self-help book – teaching from experience why living on the wrong side of the law brings only defeat and that turning life into a positive direction brings personal fulfillment. What makes this book work in both ways is the manner in which it is written. It succeeds as a rollercoaster ride of a novel, but when the reader remembers that this is a memoir and that every word is true, it succeeds in providing a handbook for young troubled teens who are in desperate need of emotional and paternal support in order to find meaning to life that has been eluding them.
Tim Hutchinson is at his best when recreating his past history – a battleground of parental abuse, complete lack of self esteem, meeting the challenges of life with association with gangs, drugs, guns, prostitution, and even a transient alignment with the Ku Klux Klan in the Twin Cities. The beatings, the incarcerations, the near death episodes, suicide attempts, the fully planned mass killings in a school where `those that have’ bullied him (thankfully not carried out), inability to form meaningful relationships, failed marriage, loss of a child (thought dead but in reality simply withheld by a trashy ignorant mother) – all of this leads to temporary jobs usually ending because of inappropriate behavior and a life that has become an ugly flat line of despair.
Enter a girl named Jennifer who saw his innate goodness and an encounter with a Holocaust survivor named Lustig who remains Tim’s guardian counselor and mentor and helps Tim see the world from a different vantage. Burying his heinous past with a new identity works for a while until Tim realizes that the only way to survive is to accept his past and change his perspective and add religion, marriage to Jennifer (a bright daughter of a physician) and four children, etc to make a new life – one that places his lack of a loving family relationship as a child to that of a caring father and traditional family values unit he always craved. Yet trouble is not over – Tim suffers from a gastrointestinal disorder that is near fatal until after failed medical attempts to turn his dwindling physical being around, his body corrects itself. Tim now has committed his life to ministering to disturbed teens and working with down and outers who need guidance and a mentor – much the same as Lustig formed for Tim.
The first 200 pages of this 318-page book are compelling and fascinating and paced breathlessly. Unfortunately that last third of the book, that part when he has turned his life around and the world becomes positive, is less well written. The reason lies in the manner in which Hutchinson deals with his GI distress. He never tells us what this mysterious disorder is – even when it finally subsides – nor does he share the medication he needs (that turns into a countrywide internet connection with caring people who help him with finding the meds), but instead his story becomes a vitriolic diatribe against the medical profession and far too much of an embittered sad sack story on which to end the book. This last addendum adds little to his mission to present a book that is meant to help those in like need and instead draws focus, poorly and certainly not wholly described, to a personal vendetta against a medical system that refuses to meet his demands.
In the end this book is well worth reading and as for the quality of writing it is excellent. It may appeal to a wider audience because of the broad focus of the information shared. It will be interesting to see if Tim Hutchinson takes his obvious gift for writing and turns form memoir to novel. It seems he would be highly successful along those lines.
Grady Harp, March 2013
TITLE: PAINFUL SECRETS
AUTHOR: TIM HUTCHINSON