CRANFORD, NJ — Lockey Maisonneuve was puzzled to find that her keyboard was wet, but she had been so immersed in her writing that she didn’t realize tears were running down her face.
It happened on a morning when the Cranford resident was furiously tapping away at Track 5 Coffee near the train station, confronting and wrestling with the most difficult moments of her life and committing them to words.
And, much to her surprise, crying.
The moment she found tears pooled on her keyboard she realized her self-published memoir, “A Girl Raised by Wolves,” would be her way of throwing a lifeline to others who have had their hearts and souls broken.
“It was like, ‘This is really why I’m writing this book,’” Maisonneuve said in a recent interview with LocalSource. “It’s just not for me. Whatever their story is, they have their own story that they’re afraid to share, or they have shared and it’s fallen on deaf ears.
“Whatever stage they’re in, there are so many other people out there who have a story and if I can share mine and get myself to the point of crying, but have it be a cathartic cry and not an emotional, send-me-down-the-rabbit-hole-for-days cry, then I want other people to share that.”
“A Girl Raised by Wolves,” published in April, is the story of Maisonneuve’s odyssey from an abusive childhood that took her from New Jersey to Florida and back to New Jersey, a journey from the brink of insanity to stability as an adult.
Maisonneuve, 52, is a survivor of abusive alcoholic parents. Her father — who died in 1987 — sold her into sex trafficking for years when she was an adolescent.
Later in her life, while deep in the recovery and healing process, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. While the author was recovering from chemotherapy and reconstructive surgeries, her mother was murdered. Maisonneuve, who had been estranged from her mother for 24 years, was initially considered a suspect until police realized that her recent surgeries had left her too weak to commit the crime.
Much of what happened to her when she was young remained suppressed until Maisonneuve was an adult and had laid down roots in Cranford. Fragments of memories would come flooding back. Faces and places would flash before her eyes and she would become paralyzed with fear.
Her survival is no small miracle. She has a good therapist, a good sense of humor and a good support system.
Even Cranford has played a role. Maisonneuve said her parents were always on the run from some landlord to whom they owed rent. For her and her sister, Ellyn, home was any number of places: a rundown efficiency, a hotel frequented by prostitutes or a double-wide trailer shared with the children of their father’s girlfriend.
Cranford has been a refuge for Maisonneuve and her husband, Cranford Township Committeeman Jean Albert Maisonneuve, and their two children, Lara and Jack.
“I wanted for myself and for my kids to have a nice stable foundation,” she said. “To create it for my kids, I had to create it for myself. Cranford taught me how to live in a family. Living in Cranford, making friends with people, establishing and then maintaining relationships and realizing I have known some parents since my daughter was in day care, since my son was in kindergarten, and I still have those relationships.”
In “A Girl Raised by Wolves,” the author details how she discovered yoga as a means of healing. Every moment in a pose helps her to be present in the moment; when she is present in the moment, she feels gratitude for her life.
As a certified yoga and meditation guide, Lockey Maisonneuve is trying to pass that serenity to others. In the past
few years, she has taught yoga classes in prisons and inner-city schools, showing students how simple breathing techniques can help them begin to regulate their
emotions. She also volunteers at Serenity Treatment Services in Perth Amboy, where participants have been charged in drug-related crimes and ordered by a judge to take the class as part of their outpatient rehabilitation programs.
Jean Albert Maisonneuve said there are inevitably a few raised eyebrows when his wife enters a room full of men who are in recovery for, say, heroin addiction.
“Part of the joke about it with my wife is she looks like what some would deem a privileged white lady from the suburbs going into an inner city situation where she doesn’t necessarily fit in,” he said. “But when she is able to connect her story into what some people are going through, when she is able to connect her story with them, she is able to gain that respect.
“But, she also gives back that respect because she understands what a lot of people are going through.”
And just when she thought she had come to know herself well through years of therapy, the process of writing “A Girl Raised by Wolves” taught Lockey Maisonneuve to look at herself in a new way.
“What I really realized in the writing of this book is how self-empowered I am,” she said. “You know that saying, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps?’ I’m a master at that and I never realized it. People would always say, ‘I can’t believe all you’ve been through.’ I would say, ‘What? It’s no big deal. Everyone’s been through their stuff.’ People would say, ‘Not like that.’”
The author is crisscrossing the state, signing copies of “A Girl Raise by Wolves,” and meeting readers inspired by it. “I’ve had people send me notes or texts or messages on Facebook and they’ve said things like, ‘I was finally able to share something that happened to me with my partner because of reading your story. I was able to share my story for the first time with my family,’” she said. “One woman wrote and said she had been abused. In part of the book, I wrote about forgiveness. We are told we should forgive or it will never be OK. There’s a lot of pressure on the victims to forgive. She wrote, ‘I was so relieved to see that you don’t really have to. You can release it.’”
Lockey Maisonneuve will be signing copies at Monmouth Beach Yoga & Wellness Center on Sept. 15, River Rock Yoga in Boonton on Sept. 16, South Street Yoga and Nutrition in Morristown on Sept. 29 and Alluem Yoga in Cranford on Oct. 13.
For more information, visit lockeymaisonneuve.com.