A woman, a man, a rape, and a hard journey from violence to reconciliation.
One ordinary spring morning in Reykjavik, Thordis Elva kisses her son and partner goodbye before boarding a plane to do an extraordinary thing: fly seven thousand miles south to meet up with the man who raped her when she was just sixteen.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, Tom Stranger nervously embarks on an equally life-changing journey, wondering whether he is worthy of this meeting.
After exchanging hundreds of searingly honest emails over eight years, Thordis and Tom decided it was time to speak face to face. Coming from opposite sides of the globe, they meet in the middle, in Cape Town, South Africa, a country that is no stranger to violence and the healing power of forgiveness.
South of Forgiveness is an unprecedented collaboration between a survivor and a perpetrator, each equally committed to exploring the darkest moment of their lives. It is a true story about being bent but not broken, of facing fear with courage, and of finding hope even in the most wounded of places.
‘What saves South of Forgiveness from being a book-length rehashing of old hurts interspersed with worthy sentiments about forgiveness, is the blossoming of Elva and Stranger’s personal quest into something larger. As they pick apart the whys of Stranger’s actions (while never for a moment excusing them), they have some important insights about the way our culture can lead young men to feel a dangerous sense of entitlement over women’s bodies … Some will find the idea of a rapist educating people about rape absurd and offensive … But the same things that make [Tom's] venture fraught might make it actually work … [A] genuine, wholehearted attempt to change the conversation around rape.’
Emily Maguire, Sydney Morning Herald
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‘An incredible achievement. Everyone could benefit from reading this book. I’m certainly richer as a result of having done so. Absolutely recommended.’
Arni Arnason, UK rock band The Vaccines
‘Thordis and Tom take daring steps into the minefield of the most fragile issues of our times. By confronting the stigma of victim and perpetrator they give us valuable insight into the darker corners of our existence.’
Andri Snaer Magnason, Author and Icelandic Presidential candidate
‘A profoundly moving, open chested, and critical book. An exploration into sexual violence and self-knowledge that can only shine a healing light into the shrouded corners of our universal humanity. There is a disarming power in these pages that has the potential to change our language, shift our divisions, and invite us to be brave in discussing this pressing, global issue.’
Pat Mitchell, Chair of the Sundance Institute and Women's Media Center
‘Every man, woman and couple should read this book. And the woman and man that wrote it ought to be garlanded with medals. It’s an unprecedented achievement.’
‘Written with sensitivity, courage and compassion, this book is a shared, outer and inner journey of recovery. In this intimate account of that journey, the story draws attention to one of the most overlooked perspectives regarding the act and meaning of rape: the shame of rape, harboured by the victim, belongs in fact to the perpetrator. Without any leanings toward self-indulgence, it is a deeply honest exploration of the dynamics of forgiveness and personal transformation. I felt as if I was with them (and their loved ones) on their journey. I will remember it and recommend it for a long time to come.’
Dr Ian McCallum
‘Extraordinarily moving … Hats off to Elva and Stranger for a brave journey that might well change lives.’
Christina Patterson, The Sunday Times
‘Both Elva and Stranger have been brave enough to publicly expose their separate vulnerabilities, in order to contribute to an important debate about sexual violence.’
The Irish Times
‘Elva and Stranger’s story … [is] as compelling and uncomfortable as it is complex. The resulting book, South of Forgiveness, is one the reader will barely be able to wrench themselves from.’
Sunday Business Post Dublin