Illuminating, impactful writing about coping with mental illness.

AN IMPOSSIBLE LIFE

THE INSPIRING TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN’S STRUGGLE FROM WITHIN

A debut memoir recounts a woman’s harrowing struggle with mental illness.

“I may have put in the hours to write this story, but she put in the years and lived it,” Siddoway remarks in the authors’ notes about her mother, Wasden. Written from Wasden’s first-person perspective, the book opens in 2007 in an emergency room in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Wasden was almost 40 years old when her family began to worry about her mental health and her husband, Mitch, decided to hospitalize her. At the time, she believed that she was simply “overstressed” from supervising house renovations, dieting, and home-schooling three children. But when asked the question “Do you want to die?” by a crisis worker, Wasden replied with a firm “yes.” The memoir tells of her involuntary admission to a psych ward, describing in detail the eight days of her stay, interspersed with episodes from her earlier life. She recalls the soporific effects of the antipsychotic pills she was administered: “They would torture me and save my life all at the same time,” making her feel “a type of sleepiness I had never experienced before.” The volume also skips back to 1999, when Wasden was self-harming with steak knives, and to 2000, when she was obsessing about losing weight. The close of the work examines her time as a recovering psychiatric patient, her lapses and perseverance, and the effects of some devastating family crises.

This is an elegantly written memoir that lays bare the progression of mental illness. It deftly pinpoints the moment when, as a young adult, Wasden began grappling with the responsibilities of daily life: “I don’t want to be an adult anymore. I don’t want to be pregnant. I don’t want to live in Michigan. I want to be a sixteen-year-old kid again.” This is juxtaposed with descriptions of later self-harm that are captured with unflinching clarity: “I reached up toward the steak knife on my desk—the only medicine I had to dull the agony. I grabbed it and started to cut the bottoms of my feet. It stung. The times the pain got bad enough to cut it felt like tidal waves were swallowing me, rolling me through an angry sea.” Keenly observant, with sharp, natural dialogue throughout, the book also recognizes the impact that living with someone with mental health issues has on others. Siddoway’s outburst regarding her mother’s suicidal tendencies delivers a shuddering impact: “My whole life has felt like one sick game of jack-in-the-box. We’ve all been tiptoeing around the idea that you could disappear one day and never come back!” The memoir would benefit from a more considered conclusion, although the authors do suggest that this work is part of a series, which would partially excuse its open-endedness. Nevertheless, the power of this story is that it allows readers to enter the mind of an individual suffering from a mental health disorder and begin to understand her thoughts and actions. This erudite book could prove insightful for patients, caretakers, and therapists alike.

Illuminating, impactful writing about coping with mental illness.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73361-940-0

Page Count: 311

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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