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Book Jacket

224 pages
Feb 2004
Cook Communications

Startling Beauty: My Journey from Rape to Restoration

by Heather Gemmen

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


"Heather Gemmen delivers the honest account of her journey from rape to restoration in Startling Beauty. Heather and her husband, a young white couple, were living out their convictions about racial reconciliation in a tough, predominately black, inner city neighborhood when their faith and marriage were tested beyond unbelievable limits. The author, who had also faced the stillborn birth of her third child and infertility in the year before being raped, details her raw struggle with racism, fear, marriage, loss, abortion, and faith. She trumpets the message that only God could turn a woman's worst nightmare into something beautiful.

"The opening chapters of the book provide the backdrop for Heather's moving story. She retraces the steps that led her family into the inner city neighborhood where they lived and eventually caused them to question their wisdom and safety in such a move. During this unsettling time, Heather and her husband buried one newborn and tried to become pregnant again. Their local church, which was also committed to racial reconciliation, provided invaluable support in their struggles. Eventually, the Gemmens find peace in their circumstances and decide to stay in the neighborhood. But their peace is intruded upon one night while Heather's husband is away when a black man enters their home and rapes her. The author portrays each of these events with an honest admission of her feelings. The reader is given a rare and privileged glimpse into the window of another person's soul and the wrestling with thoughts that goes on in that private place.

"Heather headlines each chapter with her private thoughts and battles. These thoughts are directed at her attacker, revealing what she would say to him if given the opportunity. In the prologue, the author describes her lack of courage to share her story: 'Do you see? Your few minutes of ecstasy haunt my entirety. Because of you, even words turn against me. How else will you rape my life?' Chapter seven walks the reader through the reality of abortion and the choices left to a rape victim. In the wake of such brutalizing, Heather must decide what to do about a potential pregnancy. She begins this chapter with the words, 'Do you have a conscience? Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat at night and wonder what you have done? I do. You have raped, but I attempted murder.'

"In the final analysis, Startling Beauty is real and unbelievable at the same time. Heather's account reads more like a moving work of fiction, though the reader is always keenly aware of the raw emotions that surround this very real story. At times the writing is flowery with overdone descriptions, but the story itself is riveting. Women will enjoy the author's straightforward treatment of such personal issues as intimacy, rape, loss, and birth. Men may find valuable insights into their role as protector and spiritual leader. Ultimately, Startling Beauty is an incredible story that champions God's ability to bring something beautiful out of the ashes of sin and destruction." -- Jayne Walters, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

Raped in her own home, Heather's terror went beyond her own safety: Were the kids sleeping soundly in the next bedroom, or did their silence mean something else? Would her husband save her, or would he face the same knife she did? And Heather's agony did not end after the rapist left: Against all odds, she became pregnant as a result of the rape. Would she and her husband remain united as they faced the tyranny of the choice before them? Would they endure the strain of anxiety as they waited for HIV test results and answered strange telephone calls? This gripping true-life story walks readers through Heather's journey--from rape to restoration. Startling Beauty is undeniable proof that God can bring blessings out of the worst situations in our lives.