What is a summary of the book Tornado Warning by Elin Stebbins Waldal?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tornado Warning is a memoir about dating violence.  The story is told through excerpts of teenage Elin’s diary and reflection from the adult Elin on how the events impacted her life.

At seventeen I met a guy who was older, living on his own, and running his own business.  It was the equivalent to winning the dating jackpot. (p. 21)

It was not a jackpot.  It did not take long for the relationship to become abusive, but it did take a long time for Elin to recover.

In many ways, Elin was an ordinary teenager before she met Derrick and it changed her life. Derrick was older and handsome.

Ironically, young Elin saw signs of dating violence in the relationship between her friend Becka and her boyfriend Mark, whom Elin described as “a psycho.”

I cannot imagine how Becka put up with him for as long as she did.  I guess the night he hauled off and backhanded her woke her up.  (p. 21)

As is so often the case, Elin saw the abuse in Becka and Mark’s relationship but did not see it later in hers with Derrick.  It is easy to judge other people.  It is so hard to see it when it’s you.  As the adult Elin thinks when her children can’t believe what she went through, “the incipience is not fully detectable” (p. 12).

The adult Elin comments on what drove her to Derrick and why she did not see the signs.

What began as a thrill later provided a numbing effect from the brutality I was suffering. (p. 24)

The older Elin comments that she became adept at looking like she had it together on the outside when “on the inside the canvas was more like spin art” (p. 25).

Elin did not have an easy life even as an adult.  She married and had a girl of her own (and two sons), but she stopped being  traumatized by the memories of the violence she suffered.    As an adult, Elin remembers and want to help her teenage self, when she was “half in the shadow and half in the light”.  She decides to writer her own story, to help other girls.  She is “one of the one in three women who have been abused” (p. 11).