In this moving debut autobiography, a chronically depressed short story writer tells how her relationship with her dog saved her life.
Barton was a successful associate editor for an unnamed book publisher in New York City and appeared on her way to further success, but catastrophic depression continually gnawed at her. One morning, she found herself lying disoriented on the floor of her barren Manhattan apartment, the room full of smoke because she’d collapsed while at the stove while cooking the night before. With disturbing clarity, the author lays bare in the starkest terms the ravages of deep depression, including the continual destructive self-talk that consistently undermined her. “You’re so stupid,” Barton berated herself on that fateful morning; she eventually crawled across the floor to call her mother and tell her that she thought she’d had a nervous breakdown. What seeds in the author’s life grew such poisoned fruit? Barton writes that her brother often physically and verbally abused her and undermined her parents’ attempts to deal with sibling rivalry. The author unmasks the hidden face of domestic violence, writing that her brother once pushed her so hard that she ended up cracking her head, lying unconscious in a pool of her own blood: “I woke disoriented,” Barton writes, “my father hovering over me, yelling, panicked.” This difficult subject matter might cause a lesser writer to overreach and fall into maudlin sentimentality, but Barton writes with simple clarity and precision about her depression and its effects on her life, and about her bad choices in relationships with men. Her relentless drive toward self-destruction was eventually healed by her crucial, life-changing relationship with her dog, Bunker. Through the memoir, the author shows a captivating ability to observe the interplay of external events and her inner life. Along the way, she discovers, through Bunker’s unconditional love, her own capacity for self-realization. When a medical issue threatens to cripple or even kill Bunker, readers will wonder whether the dog—and Barton herself—will survive.
A heartfelt page-turner about depression and how dogs can save us from ourselves.