The good: Louise Crawford was a great narrator and the story is brutally honest.
The not-so-good: Geena has had to endure so many horrible events in her life.
Why I chose it: Seen it on the shelf and thought it looked interesting.
Duration: 7 hours and 23 minutes (paperback is 304 pages)
Narrator: Louise Crawford
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Setting: The world
Call Me Sasha is one of those books whose cover has always grabbed me. Plus, I was a big fan of books featuring call girls in my younger days (such as those by Belle De Jour) so I thought this would be a light story to listen to in the car. I was entirely wrong about this – Call Me Sasha is not a book to be grouped in that category. Geena Leigh’s memoir is eye opening, haunting and incredibly sad in places. It made my jaw drop several times in wonder – how could people be so cruel to each other? What is amazing is that Geena has been through many horrible, terrible things and has reached a happier place where she can tell the reader about it. She has an excellent way of letting the story unfold and refusing to colour herself and her story with rose tinted glasses.
The book starts with Geena’s youth, spent back and forth between New Zealand and Australia. She was always the new girl, the one with the funny accent. Things weren’t easy, changing schools and friends and it didn’t help that her father sexually abused her. In her teens, both of her parents stated that they didn’t want Geena and she was forced to crash on friends’ couches. Finishing high school, something she desperately wanted, wasn’t going to be achievable. After a conversation with a friend of her mother’s, Geena decided that prostitution would be the way out of an abusive relationship and give her money and freedom. The money came as did the freedom – being able to travel and afford nice things. Unfortunately, it came with a downside – gaol time, drugs and drinking, in addition to unhealthy relationships and abuse. But through it all, Geena finished her education, fell in love and got out of ‘the game’.
Geena’s writing style is to the point. She never paints herself as the innocent and wrong party, she admits her faults. What shines is her strength to get through these times and perseverance to finish her secondary education and go on to university. If she stumbled, she tried again and again. It took time, but she got there. Louise Crawford was also an excellent narrator for Call Me Sasha. She not only read the book, but performed it with such emotion that I couldn’t help but be affected by it. I think listening to the book made the story much more powerful, as if Geena herself was sitting in the car talking to me. There were times when I told Geena not to move in with that man, to get out before he hurt her and there were other times when I was ecstatic at Geena’s achievements. This is a very powerful, raw story. I don’t feel that enjoyed is the right word…I feel something closer to empowerment – because if Geena can overcome her huge obstacles, surely I can overcome my more petty ones.
Call Me Sasha will redeem your faith in the human spirit. Thank you Geena for sharing your story.