‘Even if it’s true, no one will believe you.’
This bleak appraisal was the response a young Michelle Mazal received when she first tried to tell her story to a relative. She, her three sisters and her mother lived for years under the shadow of her father’s drunken violence and random sadism. All these years later, Mazal, a tough and compassionate survivor, is telling her story again; this time someone must listen. In her powerful and evocative memoir, Mazal pieces together fragments of a life that convey both a child’s love for her father and an adult’s understanding of domestic violence. Memories of playing with her sisters, getting her teeth pulled out and riding her much-loved horses are undercut by moments of daily, normalised horror. Mazal captures the complexities of her dysfunctional family in an honest, open-hearted and insightful way. She knows, none better, that feelings of love, hate, security and fear nestle more closely together than we would like to acknowledge, and that the people we love can sometimes be the ones who hurt us the most.
I’m absolutely bowled over by the power and restraint of this memoir, its precise plotting and the way you’ve allowed an amazing tenderness to quietly shine through the worst moments. I laid my hands to rest on my keyboard and breathed deeply before I could go on at several heartbreaking moments. – ‘Editor, Vivid Publishing’
Reviewed By Viga Boland for Readers’ Favorite
While the description of the book prepares the reader for what comes inside, it says very little about what won’t be forgotten: not so much the abuse as just how much abuse children can and do take from their parents, and still love them. Michelle loathed what her father did but she always loved him. This is one of the most touching aspects of Burning the Vines. But what will move readers even more perhaps is the love and solace Michelle took in her horses. Over the course of the story, she had three horses she cherished. They, along with one of her grandmothers, were her escape. But she lost all three horses to the insensitive brutality of her father. The author’s depiction of these scenes almost makes one weep.Burning the Vines is one of the better memoirs I’ve had the pleasure to read and review. Why? For a change we have a writer who doesn’t just narrate ad nauseum. She lets the other characters reveal themselves through their own words and actions. This is the way to write a memoir, as if it were a novel. It’s a skill too few memoir writers seem to have. And what makes this aspect of Michelle Mazal’s writing even more impressive is her humble beginnings: she originally never even finished high school. But after marrying into a family where education was cherished and what you’ve achieved matters more than who you are, she became determined to better herself. She not only got her high school diploma but went on to acquire two university degrees. That’s impressive and probably accounts somewhat for how well this memoir is written.
Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite
Burning the Vines – A Memoir by Michelle Mazal is poignant and the author’s pain and sadness is palpable. The writing style is evocative, lucid, and descriptive. The author captures the moments in her life in detail and makes them vivid to readers through her candid expressions. The regret of not being able to understand her mother’s plight and being able to mend the fences before she lost her mother will bring tears to readers' eyes. Michelle Mazal also shares her love for horses and how many a time the love they showed for her was life saving. I found the memoir heart wrenching, yet it shows how they get out of an abusive background and emerge from it as strong individuals. It is a story of pain, abuse, loss, survival, and redemption that will keep readers glued to the book till the very end.
Reviewed By Julie Hodgson for Readers’ Favorite
Burning the Vines by Michelle Mazal is a startling story. The sheer horror of what a child has to put up with, the things that go through their tiny minds as they wrestle with their consciences about their parents, working while ill, being underfed, and abused by their alcoholic father! But no matter what, you still have that false sense of duty or love towards the parent that has been abusive, right to the end! I was swept in from the first page, taken to Perth, Australia. You really feel the heat, anger, sadness and love as the author takes you on this perilous childhood memory trip. Get a tissue before you read this. What wonderful people Nana and Pops were. Burning the Vines by Michelle Mazal is a story brilliantly and provocatively described with a fierce determination of survival. Unputdownable!
Reviewed By Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite
While reading through Michelle Mazal’s incredible story, my heart sank often. The thought of any father punishing his child so viciously, whilst being in a constant drunken stupor, made me shudder. It shocked me that a child’s life would be at risk so often from her own flesh and blood. Michelle tells her story in such painstaking detail – not only of the surroundings but of the emotions within her – and I wanted to reach through the screen on many occasions and scoop her up into my arms, pulling her from harm’s way. Sadly, most people (including the police) turned a blind eye to violence against women in Australia up until the late 1990s, when it was deemed to be a crime.There were some parts of Burning the Vines which also brought about a nostalgic pause, followed by a smile, with mention of such things as climbing the thunder box out back or having to take your own trash to the tip back in the 1970s. Although I grew up in Brisbane during the same era, I carry fond memories of those times gone by, when the only thing most children had to fear was the back of their father’s hand every so often. The earthquakes, bushfires and snakes bites, however, were not so bearable. Whilst quite dark in places, I found Burning the Vines to be an insightful, deep and riveting read, and recommend it to readers over the age of 16, in the hopes that many victims of domestic abuse turn into survivors.