In this debut memoir, a musician offers a brief meditation on loss and grief, explaining how songs helped heal his heart.
Mallman’s panic attack started a year and a half after his mother’s death in an accident—a delayed reaction. A doctor told him: “Sometimes the brain waits to process a trauma.” Nothing seemed to help; even some of his favorite music became “terrifying” to him in its sadness. The author decided to make a “Happiness Playlist” of inspiring and cheerful songs to try to help break him out of his funk. The playlist included Bob Marley, the White Stripes, Pharrell, and Gorillaz. His therapist suggested that he “surround” himself with people who would “lift” him up. A few weeks later, a woman named Annie came into his life. He listened to his playlist nearly exclusively as he battled depression through the fall and winter months, bantering with an eclectic group of friends and artists in the Minneapolis scene and celebrating Thanksgiving at home with his father. Many of the interactions seem slight—going to the mall with Annie; glibly commenting on an art exhibition to his friend Eugene. But it was all done to keep Mallman from dwelling on his mother’s death. And it seemed to work. The author’s epiphanies are somewhat esoteric, and there is no one moment where he declares victory over sadness. It comes in small bursts, as when he’s writing songs: “Make certain to sing through your mouth from your heart, not with your mouth from nowhere.” Perhaps as a result of his musical background, his prose also delivers staccato, declarative lines: “The asphalt beneath us is fresh with sleet. It sprays the surrounding cars as we speed by them. My window doesn’t close tight. A whistle sings in my left ear. Everywhere is music.” While the prose is economical, it can feel terse until the rhythm settles in. Overall, observing Mallman fighting grief feels like watching a fishing bobber battling a strong current. Still, this book should offer solace to anyone grappling with a similar situation.
Readers struggling with depression will likely find comfort and solidarity in this account.