The Lights of Tenth Street
Doug and Sherry Turner live an enviable life in the suburbs of Atlanta and are considered by those who know them as the "perfect couple." The Turners are very involved in their church. But Doug has two secrets: he's addicted to Internet pornography and he visits strip clubs. The club is located on the opposite end of the same street as his home --- Tenth Street, hence the book's title --- both physically and metaphorically.
Working at the strip club is waitress Ronnie Hanover, a young, naïve runaway who has followed her friend to Atlanta to get away from an abusive home life. The moment Doug walks through the strip club's doors, his life becomes intertwined with Ronnie and the seamy goings-on of the club's management. As Doug's secret life is busted wide open by a friend he knows from church, he discovers that he's being blackmailed at work.
Shaunti Feldhahn's latest book takes us behind the scenes of the pornography industry, an issue plaguing many men and their families sitting in many church pews. Not the type of nice-nice stuff that usually shows up in Christian lit. But writing about Internet porn addiction is a completely natural transition for a writer like Feldhahn, whose last book, THE VERITAS CONFLICT, dealt with, in her own words, "real life as a Christian --- the real, daily battles that all of us face in our secular culture." Some experts estimate that 1 out of 3 Christian men struggle with pornography addiction.
What makes this book interesting is that Feldhahn introduces us to both the world of the addict and the world to which those addicts are addicted, and makes us see that those two worlds are intimately connected. In the epilogue, Feldhahn writes, "Before I began this book, I had never given much thought to the sex industry, believing --- as many of us do --- that it was not touching me or my community personally. It just didn't seem to intersect my suburban, comfortable life in any way. What I didn't realize was that this industry impacts all of us in both subtle and pervasive ways, whether we are aware of it or not."
Pornography and strip clubs are hard subjects to write about in generalities. There's no getting around the fact that both involve sex, women taking their clothes off on a stage, using provocative and suggestive movements and sexual favors granted outside the club. It's just the way it is. Feldhahn does a remarkable job setting the strip club scene without teetering on the titillating and crossing that fine line between informing and ensnaring.
Of course, I read the book as a woman, from a woman's perspective and was impressed with the way Feldhahn seemed to get into Doug's head, letting us see things from a man who is trying to make a break from pornography. I can drive down the highway and not look twice at a provocative billboard. Men, on the other hand, can't.
I didn't know that.
But the book's underlying message hit home with me for another reason: someone I love recently discovered that her husband is addicted to pornography and visiting strip clubs. My friend and her husband, like our fictional couple, Doug and Sherry, are devout Christians and looked upon by everyone that knows them as "the perfect couple." But when my friend discovered her husband's addiction, there was a lot of crying and sleepless nights. For lack of a better way to describe how ticked she was, she wanted to kill him. In Feldhahn's book, however, when Sherry finds out about Doug's illicit activities, she is shocked and cries a little, but then seems to become this "super-holy-human-being" of understanding and forgiveness. It is at this point that Feldhahn lost me; her reaction reminded me that I was reading fiction.
From that point on, too many scenes and too much dialogue begin to sound wooden and like articles Feldhahn might have read while doing research. After some passages, I actually asked myself, "Who talks like that?" All of it was information that moved the story line but so much of it didn't ring true, which is too bad. You can tell Feldhahn poured her heart and soul into this book and its subject matter is timely and important to many "head-in-the-sand-churches" who would rather send their congregations out to picket adult book stores than minister to those affected by them.
Feldhahn's book sheds light on a problem too many consider to be "private" and none of anyone else's business. Instead, she demonstrates that premise is wrong.
Yesterday, I sent a copy of this book to my friend who I mentioned above. After she reads it, she has told me that she will pass it on to another friend who just discovered her husband is also addicted to pornography, who asked her if she could pass it on to another friend who's going through the same thing with her husband.
Clearly, it's the right book for a lot of women.
Reviewed by Diana Keough on May 8, 2003