Local Author Sheds Light On Domestic Abuse
"The book is about mistakes that people make," said Rockaway resident Marlene Cunningham, describing her recently published first book, "In the Houses of Men," a portrait of an abused woman who spends years trying to overcome her circumstances. "[It's about] bad choices and the reasons behind [them]."
The book focuses heavily on the painful reality of domestic abuse, as the main character, Maura
Connelly, struggles to find happiness despite an abusive father and several bad marriages. Overall, however, Cunningham wants people to take away a feeling of hope. "I hope that people can learn something from this book," she said. "Despite a bad beginning in anyone's life, they can get over it and continue to success and find a grain of happiness in this world."
Cunningham has found her own successes, earning a degree in English Literature from Queens College and spending time teaching and editing before having two of her plays, "Angel in the Wings" and "Last Cruise to Nowhere" produced in New York City.
Cunningham spent about two years working on the novel and drew on personal experiences as inspiration, saying, "There's no such thing, really, as fiction. It's always based a little bit on fact." She adds that many of the novel's characters are "composites of people I've known." She even gives a cameo to the middle school teacher that encouraged her to write.
Cunningham fabricates the backdrop for her story with various locations where she herself has lived. Connelly moves from a railroad apartment in Manhattan, to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and finally to Rockaway. "It's kind of a unique spot," Cunningham said of Rockaway, her home for the past 30 years. "You can be in the country
and the city at the same time."
Happily settled in this schizophrenic locale, Cunningham continues to write, working on a new play "Present Arms," and a new book, "Whisker Cat," about a detective with a keen ability to escape from tight spots.