She grew up in poverty, neglected and abused in Toronto, Canada. I was familiar with many of the neighbourhoods described and was able to picture the settings as I read. Both of her parents were alcoholics who fought constantly. Often ignored by her parents, overlooked by teachers and without many friends, Cathrine made many bad decisions. Armed with a grade eight education, she became a mother at 15, landed in jail at 18 and by 20 was a sex trade worker. Through a set of circumstances, she ends up at the other end of the spectrum, married to a wealthy man. And.....loses it all. Back to the sex trade. And yet again claws her way back up, where she is currently the CEO of a customer service analysis company with many business accolades and is a sought after inspirational speaker.
Beautiful Buttons almost reads as a personal purging - a litany of all the hurt, anger and sadness stored up and finally released to the written page. The narrative jumps around a bit, often covering early years, jumping ahead and then back to an earlier time within the same chapter. But again, I think this speaks to the author's frame of mind and memories. I was alternatively appalled by the treatment she received as a child and stunned by some of the choices she made as an adult, especially as a mother. But I think this quote explains a lot...
"The thing is, if you aren't sure what love really is you can't be sure where you'll find it or what it looks like if you do find it. And so maybe you find yourself looking in a lot of the wrong places."
I found myself turning page after page, knowing that she lands on her feet, but totally caught up in her story. The end felt a bit rushed and compacted after so much detail, but I think that her story is still being written. Although she has found success in her career and has met and married a man she loves, she is estranged from her son. "I can forget the past. I remain hopeful that others around me can forget it as well." I don't know if the past can ever be forgotten - forgiven perhaps, but not forgotten.
Cathrine Ann is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the will to do more than just survive. She has beaten the odds many times and is living proof that when you hit bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. Her motto is now Dream It, Believe It, Be It.
Read an excerpt of Beautiful Buttons.