About The Shadows in My Heart


Big families stow deep secrets in their underbellies. At least Mary Havens’ family did. As one of twelve children born to Wisconsin dairy farmers, Mary witnessed secrets being stashed in the shadows of her family history. She even hid some of her own. Despite the darkness that took hold in Mary’s heart, she still knew the light of laughter, family hugs, and the joys of new births and personal accomplishments. Perhaps those things helped her survive. And survive she did.

The Shadows in My Heart twists and turns like the placid Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, with their hidden undercurrents and shifting sandbars, which run through the Ocooch Mountains near the family farm. Mary’s impactful story flows from the coon hound hunts and Christmas celebrations of childhood, to an encounter with a perverted, tobacco-smelling farmhand, to her marriage to Stan, her high school sweetheart, who never became the loving husband and father she had dreamed he would be. Overarching it all was Mary’s domineering mother, who eagerly supported the underdogs of life before she supported her own children.

The Shadows in My Heart offers strength and hope to the women and men who endure the struggles associated with domestic violence and abuse and reassures them that it is indeed possible to create a better life. Not only is Mary’s story a testament to that better life, it is irrefutable proof of the power of persistence, resilience, and love.


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The Shadows in My Heart

The Shadows in My Heart
by Mary A. Havens with Lynn Wiese Sneyd

What Readers Say…

“I never told a soul.” Mary Havens telling us now, not only of sexual abuse, but also the warmth of four generations of extended family, transporting the reader to southwestern Wisconsin rural life in the past seven decades. Eventually she reassures us and herself, “We’re a family now.”

Reid Gilbert, PhD


Love, sex, and human endurance intertwine in this absorbing story set in the Ocooch Mountains where the Wisconsin River meets the Mississippi.

Stephen H Getsinger, PhD

Former Director, Clinic and Branches, Amherst Wilder Foundation, St Paul. MN

Author Mary Havens never flinches in her powerful memoir about the hardest-to-speak-about problems in families.  With great courage, she leaves the “elephant in the room” question up for grabs:  “Why did she stay?”  In order to protect those she most loves, she struggles to protect herself. Try as we might, we can never build perfect families. With tenacity and tenderness, Havens offers a road map, resources, and hope for healing the fissures.

Lois Rafferty

Author, “Carnie’s Child,” Okoboji Press

“Mary is brave to tell her story.  She lights the way for others on their journey of healing.”

Genie Joseph

Author, The Act Resilient Method – From Trauma to Transformation.