David Dennis (pen name for David D. D'Aguanno) is a retired English teacher who did most of his writing during the 1980s while on summer vacations. Upon the urging of various friends and relatives, he has recently reworked his earlier writings and is now making them available to a wider audience. The author has also written a series of comedy-mysteries featuring a character by the name of Brett Cornell ("Brett Gets Hammered" & others), which interested readers can find on this site as well.
Why She Left Usby David Dennis
At the same time, while she was desperately seeking the love and approval of a mother who never wanted her in the first place, events totally beyond her control claimed her as their victim, leaving those she left behind
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It was the summer of 1985, and she was young and inexperienced, but longing to love and to be loved in return, when he entered her life.
At the same time, while she was desperately seeking the love and approval of a mother who never wanted her in the first place, events totally beyond her control claimed her as their victim, leaving those she left behind unable to cope with the enormity of her absence.
"WHY SHE LEFT US" is written as a series of diary entries, the events seen through the eyes of several different people.
But at its center is a love story chronicling a romance that transforms the lives of two people who, for too brief a period of time, experienced the greatest happiness they had ever known.
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- David D'Aguanno
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This book kept me hanging on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end. It is a page turner in the true sense of the word. To add to the intrigue, it is narrated by five different individuals, so we are able to view the same scene from different perspectives. We hear first from the broken-hearted Monica, the middle sister of the protagonist, who has been institutionalized. Monica is a girl whose life had shown great promise and has ended up with no future outside of the asylum. We are led to understand in the first installment of her memoirs that she has committed some unspeakable crime. This tantalizing glimpse into the book’s mystery draws the reader in immediately, and we do not learn the truth until the very end. The excerpts from the diary of Betsy, the “she” of the title, reveal a sheltered, selfless, loving and idealistic girl who hides herself in her books and sees the world through the eyes of character in a Jane Austen novel. Because we are given to understand from the beginning that she has come to some kind of terrible end, the naive and loving reflections in her diary are tragic. Betsy’s brother-in-law, Carl, perceives himself as smarter, more charming, and more talented than everyone around him, but through his description of events, the reader is able to see beyond his bloated sense of self worth to the broken failure of a man that he is. Carl provides the comic relief of the novel, since as the picture painted of him comes into focus, he is more clearly revealed as a buffoonish character, almost a clown. His lack of self-awareness makes his predicaments almost comical. The youngest sister, Ellen, is in many ways the complete opposite of the protagonist. Where Betsy is naieve, Ellen is worldly; where Betsy is idealistic, Ellen is jaded; where Betsy is giving and altruistic, Ellen is selfish and suspicious. Ellen has become wheelchair bound as a result of an accident, and her condition has heightened her cynicism and negativity towards others. The 5th narrator in the novel is the girls’ Aunt Lucille, who has become a sort of mother figure. The girls’ own mother is distant and aloof, never satisfied with anything Betsy does, busy with her own pursuit of men/sexual conquests. I found the differing points of view fascinating and entertaining, and I could not stop trying to unravel the mystery as the book unfolded. I was completely unprepared for the ending, however. Although the writer did provide some clues throughout, I did not notice them until I had read the shocking finale. I was unable to put the book down and found myself thinking about it when I was not reading it, trying to figure out what was going to happen. I highly recommend it.
"Why She Left Us" is a beautiful and exceptional literary read. Told, in the first person, through 5 different points of view, it is the story of a deeply dysfunctional family and of a young woman, victimized by unrelenting psychological abuse, who reaches for the stars and, for a short time, is transported. Dennis weaves this tale exquisitely through the characters' writings, keeping the reader enthralled wondering first of all which one is the "she" who leaves, and, more importantly, what eventually happened to tear her world apart. From the opening passages of Monica's Memoirs, I was hooked and had a hard time putting this book down. Dennis' writing is flawless and his characters are so real and complex, I felt I could almost reach out and touch them. The end is dramatic and surprisingly touching. There were tears in my eyes, for sure. Thank you, Mr. Dennis, for a truly remarkable reading experience. This is one read I will not soon forget.
In this emotionally intense novel, David Dennis has allowed the reader to enter into the minds of 5 different characters, all of whom are dealing with some very serious issues leading up to (and even dealing with the aftermath of) a tragic occurrence in the summer of 1985. Lies, deceit, and even murder all play a part in the story which unfolds. At the same time, the tender relationship that develops between Betsy and her one true love is told simply, eloquently, and quite beautifully. Even after I finished reading this, I couldn't stop thinking about how everything could have turned out all right, if only some of the characters hadn't given in to their jealousy and selfish motivations. An intense and gripping story that had a great impact on my thoughts and my emotions! Highly recommended
WOW I was gifted a copy of this book by the author for an honest review. I love the way this book is written and set out. The book is set out as a series of diary entries/memoirs from members of the same family. There are 2 sisters, an aunt and a husband. The way the entries are placed in the book means that you don't get a straight run of one person's thoughts, it's mixed up throughout the book. I love the way that you have to pick out the story line through each different diary entry; this keeps you guessing all the way through. I also really like the way the author has been able to use descriptive writing throughout the diary entries legitimately, allowing you to develop a relationship with each character, whether you love `em or hate `em or just plain feel sorry for them. It also has you empathising with characters that don't have their own voice. The scene is set well also; you get a clear picture of the surroundings etc.... This is not an easy read; the characters are dealing with numerous mental health issues. The book takes you on an emotional rollercoaster and delivers explosive revelations.
Reviewed by Danita Dyess for Readers' Favorite “Why She Left Us” by David Dennis is comprised of the diary pages of five people and five different accounts of the times leading to September 1985. The characters’ memories provide the basis for this romantic fiction. Monica, an 18-year old self-described psychopath, alone with her dismal thoughts, can relate to Betsy’s fate. Aunt Lucille is a 40-year old lonely woman trying to appear cheerful after everything that has happened. Ellen is a wheelchair-bound female still stuck on her mind-blowing experiences with Wayne Brown, the Bandanna wearing stud who supplied her with weed and meth on Memorial Day weekend. Then, there is Carl, Betsy’s boyfriend who wants to get married. And finally, Betsy – she was the one that made the horrible decision that forever changed the lives of the five people closest to her. The cover is apt. The division of the book into cycles was helpful. Initially, I didn’t like the cryptic diary format; I was impatient. But I kept reading and the storyline became clearer. My opinion totally changed and I wanted to meet the author and learn what prompted this story. I was drawn to Ellen. Maybe it was her adolescent, larger-than-life account of events that functions as an overcompensation for her handicap. The pace was slow but conjured strong visual images and high drama. Dennis is also the author of “Fatal Accounts” and “Plant Metabolism” and the illustrator of “Salamanders of Ohio.” “Why She Left Us” is highly recommended.
It is difficult to write the Great American Novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald did a good job with The Great Gatsby, but that novel is in its dotage, requiring extensive sociology to appreciate fully. Jonathan Franzen engages society in the 21st century with brilliance and aplomb in Freedom, but derogates his working-class characters to the extent where they beat up or murder the members of the middle class. John Steinbeck is of a different era in The Grapes of Wrath, and therefore his formula of opening each chapter with something like a sermon feels like an anachronism, but t least his treatment of the working poor is ennobling, even though haunting. Now comes David D’Aguanno, writing under the pseudonym of David Dennis, with his entry into the fray, Why She Left Us. The central family is headed by a mother, Jean, who seems more than anything to be a sex addict, with nondescript employment and a taste for nondescript men. Jean’s sister, a forty-year-old spinster, can’t get through a diary entry without mentioning how horrid men are because of her one adult relationship that ended badly. Jean’s three daughters, Monica, Betsy, and Ellen, are the real story here. At novel’s dawn, Monica is in an asylum, Ellen is in wheelchair, and Betsy, well, that would be a real spoiler if I tell you what she is doing. None of the women have last names, even though the men, Carl Peters (Monica’s husband) and Wayne Brown (Senior and Junior, significantly) carry these badges of pedigree. Leave it to the sociologists to put this in its perspective; from my middle-to-working-class background, this rings true even today that women from low socioeconomic status backgrounds might find their identities through the men in their lives. Each girl struggles to find fulfillment in their own way. Monica wants the ring and the fantasy, marrying Carl Peters, the Most Popular and Most Likely to Succeed from their high school class. Ellen inherited the propensity for sexual addiction, and Betsy, who writes with literary flair that befits someone whose route to the middle class will come through her apprenticeship at the library, seeks true, holy, passionate love. Though she finds everything she prays for in the arms of illiterate but basically noble Wayne Brown Jr., her outcome is the darkest of all the characters. D’Aguanno’s gift to the literary world is that he dignifies and honors the struggles, travails, and passions of these humble people for whom college attendance would be like completing a marathon for most of us. There is no sermon anywhere in here. Even the most spiteful act is understood; lust is accepted, and when coupled with a rush of spirit, is honored. Only one character shows ill throughout, and that is Carl Peters, who lives in resentment that the world hasn’t given him his every whim. Carl shows a horrid dark side, which will allow this book to be used as a study in psychopathy. However, even Carl’s malevolence evolves over the course of the book. Why She Left Us is a dramatic book. I don’t envision it on the silver screen, but I can imagine an effective staging of the book as theater. A director would have to manage the parallel timelines between the crucial summer of 1985 and its grim aftermath in 1986. The author crafted the ’85 and ’86 scenes with absolute precision. At 428 pages, this qualifies on some Goodreads lists as a “big book,” and I found that it required work to get through. However, I found the characters accompanying me through my work day, reacting to events in my own life. The absolute surprise at the end wouldn’t be enough if the characters weren’t so lovingly treated, so don’t read this like a whodunit. But if you want to experience real life, with real emotions and a unique take on the eternal question of love, then