A traumatic childhood in a dysfunctional family, a dismal existence in an abusive marriage and the hopelessness of self-destructive behavior all pointed to a meaningless and miserable existence for Anna Manning. Despite all that held her down, Manning summoned the courage, determination and perseverance to turn her life around. THE LEROY TREE is an inspirational story about the power of hope and human will. As her despair turns to victory, your faith in the resilience of the human spirit will be reborn.
Diane Fanning, Author of MOMMY’S LITTLE GIRL and ten other true crime books and five mystery novels
When I was asked to review Anna Manning’s The Leroy Tree, I was somewhat reluctant because the topic wasn’t one I would generally select. Someone with a somewhat dysfunctional family life, who was raped when they were 12 years old, pregnant at 13 and married by 14, did not sound like leisure reading. Once I committed to reading and reviewing the book, I was astonished at how quickly I became immersed in her life—it was sad and heart breaking to think of a young child experiencing this with no one to turn to and yet somehow through her self-determination she survived and continues to. Her memoirs lead you through her difficult life and the lessons she learned, and demonstrate it is possible to turn a horrific childhood into a productive life. She illustrates that with each difficulty and setback she overcame, she also learned a lesson that made her stronger. For someone facing similar troubles, her book is an encouragement that a better life is possible no matter what the obstacles.
Karen Sigler, Librarian, Texas State University San Marcos.
While not her complete story, Ms. Manning has in this volume begun what may prove to be another valuable addition to the canon exemplified by I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Bastard Out of Carolina. If this canon of abused American girls is feminist in nature and continually expanding, that may be because the problem it depicts stubbornly resists solution. Ms. Manning offers a portrait of a girl abused first by her parents, second by a man, and as in the books cited, by a society that resolutely resists critical examination of both the deeper causes of this abuse and their possible cures. Unlike countless other girls, Ms. Manning saved herself. Her determination to do so, and those worthy souls who helped her, rightly excite a reader’s admiration. That admiration, however, leads inexorably to the question: why did she have to? Ms. Manning deserves credit for prompting a reader to ask—and then imagine facing—that question.
Amy K. Eoff, Librarian Assistant II, Texas State University San Marcos
The Leroy Tree was captivating and sad at times, knowing that someone so young had to deal with such inappropriate & negative adult behavior. It made me realize the importance of showing kindness to others regardless of their situation or behavior because you never know how it will help make a positive difference later. The author’s life story is a reminder that we can rise above our circumstances.
Etta Moore, CEO Girl Scouts of Central Texas
A heartbreaking but ultimately triumphant story, as bravely told as it was lived.
Jay Brandon, author of DEADBOLT and fourteen other legal suspense thrillers
I confess I was reluctant to read this memoir, as I wasn't sure I was brave enough to broach a true story about the rape of a twelve-year-old girl. As I began reading the first chapter, Ms. Manning's flawless writing pulled me right in, but it was little Anna's fierce determination that kept me turning the pages. Pre-adolescence is a confusing time for any kid, but especially one deprived of affection and parental guidance. In this convincing portrait of a dysfunctional family, Anna and her brother are pretty much on their own. When Anna is forced into sex by an older boy, she has to resort to romance magazines to understand what his abuse means. And with the heartbreaking innocence of a child, Anna interprets an act of rape as a display of love. Thus, "Leroy loves me," becomes her line of defense when she is faced with the disgrace of getting pregnant. I became immersed in the story of this young girl dealing with a dilemma far beyond her realm of experience, and impressed at her efforts at self-discipline in the midst of impoverished living conditions with the unpredictable father of her baby boy. Refusing to stay trapped, Anna exemplifies a strong character who has to make tough choices and painful sacrifices to overcome adversity. Even more impressive is Ms. Manning's honesty as she depicts her young self with neither blame nor excuses. After reading "The Leroy Tree," what has stayed with me is not just the story of Anna, but the broader issue she portrays. With this well-written book, Anna Manning opens the dialogue about social stigmas -- what one girl endured forty years ago, and what too many girls still suffer today. Spoiler alert: I recommend this thought-provoking memoir to all readers who like a tragedy to have a happy ending.
Sharon Nobilio, author of Backwards: A Childhood Memoir
This eye-opening memoir shows the coming-to-age of an abused girl, who eventually reaches deep within and finds the courage to change her life. Ms. Manning's remembrance of details and wonderful imagery capture the reader from the first chapter. From then on, we agonize with and root for Anna. The author writes without self-pity and seasons it with a sense of humor that provides relief for a dark tale. Good read for at-risk youth and abuse victims as well as the general reader.
Rebecca Velez, author of SUCH A TIME AS THIS
This was a powerful read from start to finish. Each chapter leaves you wanting more. This is a true story of a 13 year old girl who finds herself pregnant, marries her rapist, and then descends to the lowest levels of living. Complete with cockroaches crawling over her son's face to having to steal food to feed her baby. This is an inspiring book that all young people should read to see how perseverance and the strength of her spirit kept Anna from becoming a homeless drug addict or a juvenile delinquent. Anna had two ways she could have gone, down or up. She managed to survive with little or no help from her parents and refused to look for excuses. Rather she looked for ways to accomplish what she wanted. She had to give up her son and decided to join the Navy. She realized this would be a good way for her to get her son back. Along the way she meets people who either helped her or dragged her down. Each contributed something to Anna's strength of will. If your child has low self esteem, is pregnant, has a poor choice of friends, struggles with drugs and alcohol, then this book is a must read. They will see that Anna has been there too and she manages to survive and make a better life for herself and her son. What an inspiring tale of survival! The writing is concise and captivating. Each chapter ends with a teaser of what is to come. I found it hard to put down. Anna's life will be told in 3 books, this is the first. Be sure to get this book and then tell your friends. Even if you haven't been down this road like Anna, you will still find this a fascinating book. You will be amazed at what she went through and how she rises above it all to better herself. The author should go on the talk show circuit to schools and youth groups. She can tell her story and inspire young ones to learn from her life. I highly recommend this book to anyone of all ages.
Mary Hulett, The Skin Whisperer
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