Surviving a child’s murder

2010-06-09 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Living without Liesel

Douwleen Bredenhann

Tafelberg

LIVING without Liesl is one mother’s heart-rending account of the murder of her nine-year-old daughter and the life of loss she lives thereafter.

Douwleen Bredenhann speaks candidly about the “ordinary” night in Kimberly in 1988 when her oldest daughter Liesl goes outside to feed the dog. When she does not return, her family go looking for her and discover her naked body in their front yard.

Written 21 years after the fact, Bredenhann allows the reader into her very personal space, sharing thoughts, feelings and her deepest anger.

Only the names of the murderer and his family have been changed, and so — with each turn of the page — the reader is reminded of the story’s authenticity. It is a raw and honest account of Bredenhann’s grieving process — from her disappointment with the NG Kerk, to her paranoia for the safety of her youngest daughter after the incident.

Perhaps the most powerful of all, is the letter Bredenhann ends the book with — addressed to Liesl’s murderer. My heart ached as I read the words she carefully chose to convey to the man who took her daughter’s life, a man who, at the time, was a teenager and her next-door neighbour.

It’s a powerful and emotional read and, while anyone would be shaken by it, a special word of caution to mothers — it’s difficult to take in.

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