An earnest, parsed, memoirlike depiction of a woman’s life with epilepsy.
If she hadn’t been diagnosed with epilepsy at 14, Mischa Dunn, who, with her Chilean diplomatic elite mother and Irish-American intellectual father immigrated to the U.S. after violent political conflict in Chile hit too close to home, would’ve faced more than her share of challenges. Tracy’s first book, cleverly organized into chapters named for seizure locations—“The Subway,” “The Ministry of Defense” —follows observant, cynical Mischa from 14 to 36 as she copes with the traumas of her medical condition and builds a life. The relationship Mischa has with her seizures is nuanced and complex and serves as proxy for any rupture in life’s peace, mental or physical. The book speaks to a broader audience than epileptics. Mischa says, “Just me. I go to bed with my epilepsy, I wake up with my epilepsy.” The implication rings true throughout the book: we fall asleep as ourselves, rise as ourselves and find our own solutions. Tracy calls her book a “novelry,” a novel of composite stand-alone short story parts, although it reads more like a memoir. Plot and character are replaced by history and opinion in a kind of slice-of-life-style narrative. Individually, chapters are weak threads in Mischa’s story. Mischa’s observations are often cynical, bordering on politely snide, which, because of Tracy’s tendency to tell, instead of show the why and how in her novel, opinions sometimes feel like reductive or insensitive condemnations of certain characters, NGOs Mischa works with or even entire cultures. The many doctors in the book are treated with simplistic, categorical disgust, and Chapter 23, of 27, is a strangely long-winded dialogue between two pregnant women in a coffee shop; watery soliloquies twist the novel toward its somber conclusion in a sudden, disjointed way. Some readers may find interwoven historical or factual information or opinion interesting, but it blurs lines between narrative and authorial voice in at times dangerous, confusing ways.
A sincere story of success in spite of trauma, in a sad and cynical world.