I remember as a kid seeing billboards and advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes, always with a ruggedly good-looking cowboy who made cigarette smoking look really cool. Neither of my parents smoked, and in my abortive attempt at smoking I went for Kools because I liked the menthol taste. Liked it, that is, until the one time I inhaled and thought I was going to cough up my toenails and die. But the image of the Marlboro man was iconic.
There were actually multiple Marlboro men, but they all epitomized masculinity and strength. Hazardous to My Health: The Marlboro Man I Knew, by Marcia N. Hill, introduces you to a Marlboro Man who was certainly strong and macho. Hill’s health hazards weren’t as a result of smoking. On the contrary, her frequently life-threatening injuries came at the fists of Claude Hall, who had at one time modeled for the Marlboro ads.
Imagine coming home from work one day to find that your house has been emptied of all your possessions, your children and dog are nowhere to be found, and two large men are at your door, telling you that you don’t live there anymore, and you have to get in their car and they will take you to your new home. The new home is lovely; there are plenty of toys for the kids, a swimming pool. You have nothing to do because the same day you were summarily moved to your new home, you were also let go from your job. You try to call your parents, but the phone has been bugged, and you are told in no uncertain terms by the same intimidating men who moved you to your new home that if you try again to calling home, your father will be severely beaten. You try to call the police, but they refuse to assist you and the one police officer who shows up at your house sexually assaults you. After a week of this uncertainty, a good-looking man comes to the house, wines and dines you under the starlight, and then rapes you during the night. No one will help you. You can’t escape. You and your children are living in this new home, completely at the mercy of a sadist.
That was the beginning of a long and agonizing nightmare for Hill, who tried repeatedly to escape and was sorely beaten within the proverbial inch of her life. It is a miracle that she survived to write this book. She intersperses stories from her youth with the stories of her hellish existence with Hall, and the contrast makes it even more incomprehensible. After I finished the first read, I had to go snuggle with my dogs and thank heavens that neither I nor anyone I know personally had ever lived a life like that.
Hill and her children did at last manage to escape Hall’s cruel domination of their lives. If you have been, or know someone who has, physically and sexually abused, and you’re wondering why that person doesn’t just leave, this book could give you some insight as to the reasons. It could also help you find hope that happiness can be found, eventually.
Legal stuff: I was given a review copy of this book. I have received no other compensation for this review.