A debut author recounts his struggles with adoption and depression.
Smith grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in the town of Harvey in western Australia, the adopted child of a family of dry cleaners. Learning of his status caused great confusion in the life of the young boy: “I became very self-conscious of this, and it played on my mind all the time. I thought, How could someone so strong and great just be given away?” Smith recounts his childhood and adolescence: playing saxophone in a band, failing at talking to girls, hunting kangaroos, and apprenticing as an electrical fitter. Through it all, however, obsessive compulsion, anxiety, and depression were taking root in his mind, making him particularly sensitive to life’s flaws. During a stressful house-building project in his 20s, Smith sunk into a depression that ground his life to a halt. He then began to seek professional help for his condition while pressing into new areas of experience, including patronizing prostitutes, joining a football club, and finding out the names of his birthparents. Meeting his birth family and learning to take better care of himself, Smith began to slowly find a way to exist in the world. Smith’s prose is sharp, if somewhat dramatic: “The year 1990 was the beginning of the end for me with respect to my innocent life; all my weaknesses were ruthlessly brought to the foreground.” His verbosity is evident from the length of the book (over 400 pages), but the author is willing to let other people speak as well. The work includes long passages written by Smith’s mother, his psychologist, and one of his former band mates. The memoir is further supplemented by family photographs, grade school report cards, lists of badminton tournaments in which Smith competed, job time sheets, an explanation of the author’s zodiac sign (Leo), and over 40 pages of transcripts from his sessions with two clairvoyants. In fact, Smith includes so much material (none of it terribly interesting) that no real narrative emerges. The author has cataloged his life, but there isn’t much for the reader to take away from it.
A long, minutiae-driven memoir about family and mental illness.