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A Memoir

by Laura Dennis

Pub Date: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Entourage Publishing

A dancer and choreographer describes her break with reality after finding her birth mother.

Dennis opens her debut memoir dressed in a sexy black lace dress in a Southern California restaurant in 2001. She’s convinced she’s a spy who piloted one of the planes that flew into the twin towers on 9/11. She’s there to find the head of the evil Illuminati, but instead she finds an older man in a gray suit who wants to take her to Cuba and impregnate her. After this jarring but compelling opening, the memoir flashes back to her childhood and young-adult years, beginning with her adoption as a baby and eventually, in her early 20s, meeting her birth mother. During those years, Dennis develops a love of dance, maintains a strong GPA, falls in love and struggles with eating disorders. Her adoptive parents, a strongly Catholic mother and a father who suffers from depression and Asperger’s syndrome, are easily fooled by their daughter’s practiced facade of perfection. Teachers, classmates and friends also seem oblivious to the many warning signs of the narrator’s impending breakdown. Short, easily digestible chapters offer believable dialogue, succinct descriptions of events and candid observations. The author adds a sense of ongoing drama by often ending chapters with a single, searing line that hints at what’s to come: “And then, whether or not I truly am, convince a judge that I’m sane.” The memoir ends full circle with a deeper look at her bipolar personality, the probable causes of the breakdown described in the book’s opening, and her resolution to be normal. Disappointingly, while the path from sanity to insanity is well-explored, the reverse direction is not, making the conclusion feel abrupt and premature. “I knew I didn’t want to be on medication; therefore, I decided on my own prognosis: I will not be crazy,” she writes. The rosy ending also strains believability, especially given the narrator’s admitted penchant for shaping her projected image to the outside world.

The stark portrait of a young woman who looks together from the outside but is falling apart on the inside, although the association isn’t exactly clear.