Black (I Knew You’d Be Lovely, 2011) details how she coped with the death of her father, then with a series of illnesses and other devastating personal losses.
The author’s father, a professor of math at MIT, was her best friend, especially during her teenage years. When she became “suspicious about the nature of existence,” he was always there to counter her fears with his no-nonsense “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” view of life. His decline and death not long after she graduated from Harvard upended her world. Already unsure what she would do with her life, Black “stopped paying [her] bills and doing laundry” as she battled an eating disorder. She sought work halfheartedly, first as a movie theater usher and then an ice cream server. Just as she began making peace with her father’s death, the author finally stumbled into a job as a proofreader. She bought a house in the country, found Jesus, and met the writer-boyfriend she christened “the Last of the Last Great Men.” Her happily settled life took an unexpected turn for the worse when she suddenly began to experience disturbing physical symptoms that no doctor or health test could explain. She then embarked on a medical odyssey that seemed to end with a diagnosis of mold illness. Even after she began treatment and got rid of her home and all her infected possessions, she continued to have symptoms that defied medical logic. Hysterical, Black took out her frustrations on her long-suffering boyfriend, who eventually left. Visits to the many subsequent specialists she saw in her quest for answers showed that her gut was not only a “Disneyland for pathogens,” but that she was suffering from iron overload. Though at times overly disjointed, the book still succeeds in offering a candid depiction of a woman’s struggle with her own vulnerabilities as she seeks to understand the “pile of terrifyingly beautiful rubble” left in the wake of all her struggles.
Flawed but no less poignant for its imperfections.