White Rock’s Kerri Krysko is a survivor – she had to be.
The story she has to tell in her memoir, Kerri On, is a harrowing one.
It’s the story of a woman who became the wife, and later the ex-wife, of a full-patch Hell’s Angel, and paid the price in years of physical, sexual and mental abuse.
It’s also the story of the mother of two boys, a woman who has put her focus on being a caring, empathetic and nurturing person in spite of a lifelong battle with issues of low self-esteem.
That her self-published book, released in early July, was written by the ex-spouse of a Hell’s Angel has indubitably given it traction.
U.S. blogs that she has been featured on have rapidly gone viral, requests for television interviews are multiplying and, in the space of only a month, Kerri On was chosen for national placement in the ‘biography’ – rather than the ‘local interest’ – section at Chapters/Indigo stores.
“I’m the first one to ever write this (kind of book),” she said. “I never knew until it went viral. I was so shocked. I was floored.”
At the same time, she emphasizes, her raw, deeply personal narrative is not intended as tell-all about the Hell’s Angels or the gang lifestyle, or an exercise in ghost-written sensationalism.
“I didn’t do it to tell anyone’s secrets,” she said.
Krysko acknowledges that success for the book could help make the future more secure for her and her sons, Ashton, 16, and Sable, 7.
But the real reason she survived to tell her story, she believes, was not to make money but to serve as a beacon for others.
“It was divine purpose – I believe that,” she said, while noting she is not a member of any organized religion.
It was through the help of some kind people in this community, the former Semiahmoo Secondary student said, that she found the strength to fight back against all the obstacles that surrounded her, the ostracism of family and former friends and patterns of behaviour she established in early childhood.
And, she said, she’s glad her story is now beginning to resonate with others who have experienced the same issues, even if they have no previous knowledge of the dangerous lifestyle she found herself in.
In the book, she’s frank about the abuse and abandonment she felt from her mother; about choices she made, including striking out on her own as a teenager and, becoming a mother at an early age; and also about the appeal of the “bad boy” that, ultimately, led her into a protracted relationship with the father of her youngest boy, the man she calls “Damien,” or simply “The Beast.”
A man of charisma and power – both physically and through his connections in the Hell’s Angels – he kept her continually off-kilter, she relates, in a vicious cycle of abuse in which tenderness and charm alternated with shattering emotional and physical violence that was witnessed, more than once, by her sons.
The recognition factor she sees in feedback from readers is that hers is, in essence, a story about abuse suffered at the hand of a controlling individual with power over her – something that can and does occur anywhere, in any walk of life.
But it’s also a local story – Krysko, who was born in Edmonton, has lived in White Rock on and off since she was 14.
This area was the backdrop to many of the events in the book, and her eldest son plans to graduate high school here, she said. Krysko said writing about her life with ‘Damien’ – although minus any significant details of what he did to afford his ‘bling’ and partying lifestyle – has led to inevitable questions about whether she feels safe.
“People ask, ‘were you allowed to leave?’” she said. “Of course you can leave, if you want to leave, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to turn around and tell on people.
“I’ve never been threatened at all. The people who want to be vindictive and vengeful are the ones that need to be worried. Perhaps I’m OK. Maybe it’s different that I was a wife.”
She also feels that the book she produced was more empathetic because she didn’t rush into telling her story.
“I took time to heal, I took time to find me, took time to forgive everybody.”
It was important to her, she said, that she established the right tone, in this regard, in her first book – as she points out, Kerri On is part one of a planned trilogy, covering the story only up to the time when, in spite of the abuse she had suffered, she decided to marry ‘Damien.’
Krysko said she wouldn’t change anything about her life, in retrospect.
“I was meant to do this – I was meant to live this and survive it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am now.”
Even so, she hopes her story can prevent others from travelling the same path – “a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone, a life that some people might think was glamourous, fun, exciting, when in fact it was horrifying, wrong, empty and unfulfilling.”
Making mistakes is an inevitable part of growing up, she said.
“If you go and experience something and it doesn’t feel right, you know it. You have to learn from your mistakes. We all have to hold on to our own truth.”