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Paperback The Rules of Survival Book

ISBN: 0142410713

ISBN13: 9780142410714

The Rules of Survival

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

For Matt and his sisters, life with their cruel, vicious mother is a day-to-day struggle for survival. But then Matt witnesses Murdoch coming to a child's rescue in a convenience store, and for the first time, he feels a glimmer of hope. When, amazingly, Murdoch begins dating Matt's mother, life is suddenly almost good. But the relief lasts only a short time. When Murdoch inevitably breaks up with their mother, Matt knows he needs to take action...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

A chilling tale of children endangered by a mother with BPD

"Rules of Survival" by Nancy Werlin deserves all the high praise it has been getting from young and old alike. I loved it from the first page and couldn't put it down. How could I resist? This is such a compelling tale of psychological, emotional, and physical child abuse, and it is told so earnestly and believably from the eldest child's point of view. What makes this book is so devastatingly compelling is that the abuser is the children's mother. I don't want to give away the plot, or spoil any part of this wonderful tale by telling you any critical details. It is enough to say that this book is well-written, thrilling, and fast-paced. The characters are extremely believable. There is no doubt that Nancy Werlin is a master storyteller. But I do want to make one matter perfectly clear: yes, their mother is mentally ill, but please don't be mislead by other reviews to think that she is a bipolar (a modern term for manic-depressive illness) or psychotic. Perfectly normal-acting persons with bipolar illness surround all of us every day. This illness can be treated very successfully by medication. It would be wrong of you to think that Nikki's actions are those of person suffering from bipolar illness. And psychotic...well, if Nikki were psychotic she'd be a lot worse than what she is here in this novel, and true psychotics are a lot rarer. No, Nikki is one of those unfortunate persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD)...and they are more common. It is a term that sounds innocent enough, but it's as close to psychotic as you can get and still be seen by most folks as somewhat normal. It is an illness that cannot be cured by medication, and psychiatric talk-therapy has had little success with this biologically hard-wired condition. Unfortunately, I know two people with borderline personality disorder: one I avoid completely because I can, and the other...well, that person I have to deal with fairly often. Neither is as bad as Nikki, but Nikki's problems are significantly exacerbated by lack of an unconditionally loving family to support her, alcohol abuse, major illegal drug abuse, and the stress of raising three small children entirely on her own. If you love this book and want to know more about borderline personality disorder, check it out on the Internet. While you're at it, learn more about bipolar illness and psychosis, too. This was my first Nancy Werlin book. I can hardly wait to read more. I love the fact that she deals with tantalizing topics at the fringe of the human condition...and she does it so well!

Must read

Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for Reader Views (10/06) From the moment I saw the cover of this book I knew that I would find pain within. The pain of a young man facing the abusive life he's survived. "Emmy, the events we lived through taught me to be sure of nothing about other people. They taught me to expect danger around every corner. They taught me to understand that there are people in this world who mean you harm. And sometimes they're people who say they love you." Chillingly Matt recounts the night he sneaked into the kitchen and took an Oreo. His mother, Nikki, held a knife to his throat and cut him, to teach him to never again steal. This is just one incident in the nightmare he calls childhood. Matt's father was gone but Matt couldn't blame him, after all he too was terrified of Nikki. For a while Murdoch seemed to offer some protect from their mother, but, he too found himself unable to cope with the destructive behavior of Nikki. He cared but was it enough? Matt knew it was up to him. He knew he had to find a way to get his two sisters and himself away from, their mother, Nikki, before she destroyed them all. Matt turned to his father Ben for help, but Ben was too afraid of his former wife to rescue his own children. This is the story of a brother's attempt to protect his younger sister from their abusive mother. The story is told in the format of letters from Matt to his dear sister, Emmy, trying to explain and warn her about life with their abusive mother. "As I sit here writing, part of me hopes that you go along happily your whole life and never need or want to know the details." This book is painful to read. But it should be read. There are many children facing the same situation and we, as society, must stop turning our backs on our precious children. This book is well written. The type is large enough for tired eyes to easily read it. The characters are so real that you cry for them. I found myself wanting to snatch them from their mother's insane antics and give them safety. I highly recommend "Rules of Survival" for older youth and adults.

Superb suspense and real life issues.

Edgar winner, Werlin, combines suspense with real life problems as Matt and his sisters Callie and Emmy try to keep their volatile and unbalanced mother happy. One day in the convenience store they witness Murdoch stopping a kid from being abused and become obsessed with him. For Matt's birthday, Callie finds Murdoch's address but their mother finds it and takes them all over to Murdoch's house. They begin dating and kids' lives look so much better but Murdoch quickly realizes that the mom is unbalanced and breaks up with her. Each day with their mom raises the question of survival. Will she drive the car with all the kids in it into oncoming traffic? The relationships between the siblings are richly depicted and Werlin's pacing is excruciatingly good. It is a page turner.


As Matt explains, it was a sweltering Boston evening, and a date night for their mother. Matt was thirteen at that point, and Callie was eleven on that evening they left their five year old sister Emmy sleeping alone in the apartment, climbed out the window, and raced around the corner to buy a couple of Popsicles at the convenience store. They would return home a few minutes later with the dream that a stranger whose behavior they'd just witnessed might somehow be persuaded to intercede in the frightening and dangerous world they inhabited, a world controlled by Nikki, their nightmare of a mother. "Callie and I headed straight for the ice cream freezer, and we'd just reached it when the yelling began. We whipped around. "It was the barrel-shaped man and the little kid. The man had grabbed the boy by the upper arms and yanked him into the air. He was screaming into his face while the kid's legs dangled: 'What did you just do?' "The little kid was clutching a package of Reese's Pieces and he started keening, his voice a long, terrified wail, his small body rigid. "The big man--his father?--shook him hard, and kept doing it. " 'I'll teach you to take things without permission! Spend my money without asking!' "And then the other man, the one I later knew was called Murdoch, was between the father and son. Murdoch snatched the little kid away from his father and put the kid down behind him. Then Murdoch swiveled back. "Emmy, I like to freeze the memory in my mind and just look at Murdoch. He was a medium kind of man. Medium height, medium build, hair shaved close to the skull. You wouldn't look twice--until you have looked twice. "He wasn't afraid. I noticed that right away about him. Here was this huge enraged man, facing him. But this other man, Murdoch, was calm. At the same time, there was this sort of tension coiling off him. "Callie and I were behind Murdoch and to the left, so we had only a partial view of his face and expression. But we had a full-on view of the little kid, who was so shocked that he stopped crying and just stared up at Murdoch's back with his mouth open. "Meanwhile, Murdoch said, quietly but audibly, 'If you want to hurt somebody, you can hurt me. Go on. Hit me. I won't hit back. You can do it until you're not angry anymore. I'll let you.' "There was an endless, oh, five seconds. The father's eyes bulged. His fists were clenched. He drew one arm back. But Murdoch was still looking straight at him, and I knew--you could feel it vibrating in the air--that even though Murdoch had said he wouldn't hit him, he wanted to. He wanted to hurt him. "I liked him for that. No, Emmy, I loved him for that. Immediately." Imagine being a child in a single-parent household with a mother who puts a knife to your throat for sneaking an Oreo without asking. A mother who suddenly pulls into the oncoming lane of traffic on the highway and demands you convincingly express your love and devotion to her (or else). Sure, there are other adults
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