Review: Fortitude by Apryl Pooley

TRIGGER WARNING: This memoir contains rape experiences in much detail, various types of abuse and addiction.

FORTITUDE is Apryl Pooley’s honest and sobering account of living with PTSD and the shame of rape. A “good Christian girl,” Apryl had planned to save herself for marriage. She was raped the first time at age 17, waking up in a strange bed in a fraternity house, paralyzed from the neck down, with no recollection of the previous 16 hours. Having taken the abstinence pledge promoted by the sex program at her school, which hadn’t prepared her – or any of her peers – for the reality of rape, how to respect sexual boundaries and how to say “no” to sex, Apryl took the shame – and fault – upon her own youthful shoulders.

Shattered by this traumatic loss of innocence, and the ensuing ostracization by her peers at school and church, Apryl fought to survive and understand what had happened to her, outwardly portraying the life of a successful college student, while experiencing recurrences of the paralysis, struggling through eating disorders, drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide attempts that dominated her life for the greater part of the decade following her first assault, exacerbated when she was raped a second time just two and a half years later.

With candor and aided by ten years of unedited blog and journal entries, Apryl details her labyrinthine journey to her discovery as a neuroscience doctoral student that PTSD is more than a military issue, leading to her own PTSD diagnosis after nearly a decade of living with the disorder.

By turns funny, heart-wrenching, angry and contemplative, Fortitude is one woman’s frank discussion of rape, PTSD, healing, love and new-found purpose. Highly recommended.

5 of 5 Stars.




Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir

Anchored by ten years of unedited blog and journal entries, Fortitude illustrates a real-time account of an outwardly successful college student living with secrets of rape, childhood molestation, a closeted lesbian identity, PTSD, alcoholism, addiction, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. In her first year as a neuroscience doctoral student, Apryl learned of PTSD as more than a military issue, which led to her own PTSD diagnosis after nearly a decade of living with the disorder. She devoted the remainder of her life’s research to understanding the effects of trauma on the brain but learned that healing from trauma was so much more than a scientific experiment. Fortitude describes Apryl’s unrelenting attempts to hide her shame by escaping her mind and body, only to find that what she needed was to openly share her story and travel deep within herself to find the healing answers that were there all along.

“It’s easy to compare Pooley’s book to some of the great addiction-themed memoirs like “Smashed,” “The Basketball Diaries” or “Drinking: A Love Story,” but [Fortitude: A PTSD Memoir] stands alone for its forthrightness and the author’s scientific bent. Her story deserves everyone’s full attention, and it definitely deserved a book.” –Bill Castanier, Lansing City Pulse literary journalist and editor of Mitten Lit blog about Michigan authors.

Genre: Memoir
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Gravity Imprint of Booktrope Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1-51370-445-6
Available on in Kindle and paperback versions
Available on in Nook and paperback versions


Apryl E. Pooley was raised in Charleston, Illinois–a small, rural college town where she stayed to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the biological sciences department at Eastern Illinois University. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Michigan State University Neuroscience Program where she researches the effects of traumatic stress on the brain. A scientist by training, a writer by practice, and an artist by nature, all of Apryl’s work is inspired by the drive to make sense of the world around her and to help others do the same. Apryl’s first publication outside the scientific literature was a short story called Dichroma in author/editor Troy Blackford’s “Robbed of Sleep” series (2014). Her second trade book, released on February 17, 2015, was the culmination of a three-year writing project that became her memoir, “Shadow Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through PTSD and Womanhood.” All profits from this memoir are being donated to local organizations that help survivors of sexual assault/abuse. Apryl lives in Lansing, Michigan with Mandy and Lady, her wife and dog, respectively.

Author Site:








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Filed under Book Review, Booktrope, Gravity Imprint, Literature, Mental Health

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