memoir

All posts tagged memoir

The Owl At The Window – Carl Gorham

Published June 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘She is dead. She was here just now and she was alive. How can she suddenly be dead? People in history are dead. Old people are dead. Grandparents are dead. Other people are dead. Not people like me. Not this person. The person I was married to. Had a child with. Not the person who was standing next to me. Chatting. Laughing. Being.’

Shock is just one of many emotions explored in award-winning TV comedy writer Carl Gorham’s account of his bereavement which is by turns deeply moving and darkly humorous.

Part love story, part widower’s diary, part tales of single parenting, it tells of his wife’s cancer, her premature death and his attempts to rebuild his life afterwards with his six -year old daughter.

Realised in a series of vivid snapshots, it takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from Oxford to Australia, from Norfolk to Hong Kong through fear, despair, pain and anger to hope, laughter and renewal.

The Owl at the Window is a fresh and original exploration of what it means to lose a partner in your forties, and how Carl learned to live again.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Coronet publishers via Book Bridgr for sending me a copy of this moving memoir of grief and loss in exchange for an honest review. I’m usually quite tentative about reading books like this as I seem to have become a more emotional reader over the last few years with stories like this affecting me more and more each time I read one. I’ve had my own personal experiences with loss and I was concerned that I would find it quite difficult to read, comparing it with my own situation, but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to give it a chance.

You may be familiar with Carl Gorham as the creator of the cult animated show Stressed Eric which was shown on BBC 2 here in the UK and he has also written many sketches for radio and television and adapted the well loved children’s books Meg and Mog for ITV. What I hadn’t realised about Carl was the struggles he has been through as a widower and single parent when he sadly lost his wife, Vikki to a long and torturous battle with cancer. This book was told is such a delicate, gentle and occasionally quite humorous way in alternating chapters where Carl talks about his life with Vikki from their first meeting, the early days of their marriage and the adventures they went on all over the world to the present day and how he and their daughter are coping right now with the sorrow of her passing.

It’s almost guaranteed, this book is going to be heart-breaking. However, I was surprised at points by how uplifted and hopeful it made me feel. Carl is unashamedly real and raw about his feelings which I greatly appreciated but at the same time he realises that he has a responsibility to his daughter to carry on and accept the future, (despite it being not at all what they had hoped and dreamed of) for the good of both of them. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him for the way he deals with his wife’s death and continues to raise their daughter with honour and deep love for what they both created as a couple. Of course, it’s unbelievably sad and the addition of photographs, although lovely to see, reminds the reader that we are dealing with real lives and very real tragedy that someone has had to go through. I really hope the process of writing this book was therapeutic and helpful for Carl and I want to thank him for sharing it with the world, I’m certain it will help other people going through the same thing.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books 2017 – MARCH READ – Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Published April 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

bannedbooks

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Welcome to the third banned book of 2017! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. If you would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

APRIL –  Habibi – Craig Thompson

MAY – Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan – Jeanette Winter

JUNE – Saga, Volume Two (Chapters 7-12) – Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

JULY – The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

AUGUST – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

First published: 2006

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)

Reasons: violence and other (“graphic images”)

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  This is one of those books where I don’t necessarily agree with the reason for challenging/banning it but I can understand why someone may have had problems. I don’t think a book should ever be banned outright and people should always have access to it but in some cases, it might not be suitable for younger readers. There is however one reason I’d like to point out as I’m confused about it – the violence part. Now I’ve just finished this graphic novel/memoir and I really am racking my brain to remember any specific incidence of violence. There is a couple of slight incidents at the beginning where Alison’s father hits her or her brothers but it isn’t portrayed terribly graphically which I was a little relieved about as that would hit a bit too close to the bone for me.

CHRISSI: I can somewhat understand why this book has had some issues. There’s some er… rather risque moments that I can imagine would be a bit difficult to handle in the classroom. That’s not to say that I don’t think it should be challenged and banned completely, but from a teaching perspective… I wouldn’t dream of having this in the library unlike some of the other books that we’ve read for this feature.

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over ten years old and still reads as very contemporary so I don’t think attitudes would have changed too much in that short period of time. I was surprised at the graphic sexual imagery that there is, I wasn’t really expecting that and although I wasn’t personally offended by it it might be a bit too much for very young readers. It shows a lesbian scene and I was quite pleased that this kind of thing is being included in graphic novels. The other graphic image is of a naked male corpse which again I wasn’t perturbed by but might frighten those of a more sensitive disposition. 

CHRISSI: I’d have to agree with Beth, there are some images that might be a bit too much for some. I’m happy that it’s an LGBT graphic novel/memoir, but the male corpse was a little bit too much for me!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately I was really disappointed by this book. I thought Alison Bechdel certainly led an interesting life, being brought up in a funeral home with a gay father and coming out as homosexual herself later in life made for a fascinating read. However, I didn’t really get on with the story as a whole, the literary references to Proust and Fitzgerald seemed a bit over the top and unnecessary at times and I would have enjoyed it more if she had specifically focused on the relationship between herself and her late father.

CHRISSI: Beth asked me what I thought of it before she started it and I didn’t want to spoil her reading experience. However, I really didn’t like this book. I thought it was going to be really interesting, it certainly has potential to be a fantastic read but I felt the story as a whole didn’t gel well for me. I was bored at points which isn’t what you want from a book. 

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me! – This book didn’t capture my attention.

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Join us again on the last Monday of April when we will be talking about Habibi by Craig Thompson.

 

Talking About Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

A new Sunday Times bestseller from Bryony Gordon, Telegraph columnist and author of the bestselling The Wrong Knickers. For readers who enjoyed Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Ruby Wax’s Sane New World, Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

‘I loved it. A brilliant fast and funny and frank look at something that absolutely needs to be talked about in this way’ Matt Haig

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humor, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you make of the cover, its subtitle and the title? I find it interesting that this particular cover is yellow!

BETH: Well, I had to actually pick your brain on this one as you had a lot more insights than me, haha! So the title and subtitle is Mad Girl – A Happy Life With A Mixed-Up Mind and is bright yellow. The colour yellow is notoriously quite a cheery and happy cover which is ironic considering the subject matter, a woman talking about her OCD, depression and other mental health issues. The cover immediately attracted me because of the bright cover and the suggestion that although OCD and depression are far from a barrel of laughs (I should know!) the author would take us on a journey with some dark points but some light, funny moments along the way. Mental health is not funny on any level but making light of certain experiences can give other people the bravery to face their own demons and be better equipped to deal with their problems. It certainly felt that way to me and I got a lot out of this book.

BETH: How did you feel that anxiety and depression was portrayed in Bryony’s story?

CHRISSI: Hmm… good question. I liked how there were some lighter, funnier moments within the story. I think that Bryony Gordon mixed humour in really well. But I also appreciated the moments where there were darker points to her story. It’s not sunshine and showers and it’s certainly not something to be laughed at, but in making some light jokes on the situation, Bryony is showing the reader that she’s human too and is going through a constant battle. I know for many sufferers, if not all, mental illness will always be present. It’s how you battle it that matters/

CHRISSI: Mad Girl talks about some difficult issues. Discuss how Bryony Gordon mixes humour with her descriptions of darker emotions and situations.

BETH: As I rambled on about in my previous answer (maybe I should start reading questions ahead of typing?!) Bryony deals with some very difficult issues in her book. There are eating disorders, emotional abuse, addiction… to name a few. However, it never felt too much as there was always a note of humour to make even the darker situations easier to read and experience. I felt like I had scarily so much in common with Bryony and I tend to use humour as a defence mechanism myself to deal with horrible stuff. It just made me warm to her more to be perfectly honest.

BETH: Mad Girl is described as a celebration of life with mental illness. Do you think this came across in the author’s writing?

CHRISSI: I do feel like Mad Girl does celebrate Bryony’s life with a mental illness. Despite everything that Bryony goes through, she still comes across as someone that’s enjoying her life in the main part and is desperate to not let the mental illness dictate how she lives her life. That’s inspiring!

CHRISSI: Was the humour ever too much?

BETH: For me personally, no it wasn’t. I think some of the things she talked about, especially when she talked about her first serious relationship could have really got to me and put me back into quite a dark place. However, when I felt close to feeling that way, I felt the situation in my head was defused by a hilarious line that made me smile (or laugh out loud…sorry fellow train passengers!) that cheered me up and got me out of my own head again. Without that I think it would have been too much.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non-fiction. How much did you enjoy this book compared to other non-fiction you’ve read?

CHRISSI: Indeed, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. However, I enjoy reading non-fiction books when they centre around a subject I’m interested in or a subject close to my heart, which in this case, is Mad Girl. I am a ‘mad girl.’ There’s an awful lot I could relate to in this book, so it didn’t feel like I was being bogged down with information. It felt like I was chatting to a friend.

CHRISSI: What do you feel you have gained from reading this book?

BETH: The knowledge that I’m not the only weirdo in the village?! No, seriously I loved reading about Bryony’s life and as I mentioned before, felt I had an awful lot in common with her. You look at other people and the success they’ve had, especially if they’ve had a lot to deal with in their past and present (and probably future) and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved. It makes me hopeful for my own future. I also think it’s so so important to talk about mental health issues and your thoughts and feelings out there so people can realise they are definitely not on their own.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I enjoyed her writing style and humour!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books 2016 – OCTOBER READ – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Published October 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing–a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

bannedbooks

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Welcome to our tenth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

First published: 2005

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As one of the more fairly recent releases for our banned books list this year, answers for the first two questions are going to be similar as I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in the last ten or so years. There are a few profanities in the text with one mention of the “c” word which I know some people may not take too kindly to. However, I feel that no matter where you go or what you try to avoid, you cannot help but hear bad language, whether it’s in the street or on the television. If you’re offended by bad language, fair enough that’s your own personal right and you can choose to read this book or not. In my opinion, it’s not completely littered with profanity so I was perfectly happy whilst reading it. 

CHRISSI: It does have some offensive language, I know the ‘c’ word certainly offends me, but when used in this book it didn’t bother me so much because it was the reality of the situation. It didn’t prevent me from reading this book, it just made me cringe a little. That’s fine. That’s real. I can see that its heavy subject matter might be too much for teenagers but moving into YA and adult, I don’t think it’s something that should be necessarily banned. As Beth says, you can hear much worse on TV, around friends and with music.

How about now?

BETH: See first answer! This book is not marketed as a young adult novel. In fact, it is on the “adult” category of GoodReads. This may be down to the occasional bad language, sexual references or some of the more adult content that it contains. The subject matter that this novel deals with is difficult and was, at times, hard to read for me but I’m incredibly glad that I did because I found it a wonderful, highly emotional piece of writing. I can’t really think of any hard and fast reasons why it should be challenged/banned and think a memoir of this standard deserves to be read.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t think it should be necessarily challenged or banned as I think it’s a highly important read. Perhaps, if in a high school/college library it should have a notice for explicit content, but an outright ban? No I wouldn’t agree with that.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I thought it was a brilliant read! The fact that it is a memoir just made Jeannette’s difficult upbringing with her family all the more poignant and a little chilling in places if I’m honest. I felt so sorry for Jeannette and her brother and sisters being brought up in such an environment, moving from place to place, sleeping in cars and rooting through rubbish bins just to find something to eat. It’s a life that no child should have to experience and really made me think about people that are less fortunate and don’t have the blessing of a stable home/family.

CHRISSI: I was utterly gripped by this book. I couldn’t put it down, but at the same time, I wanted to because it was such an intense read. It was tough to read about what Jeannette and her siblings went through. It made me realise how lucky I was to have the upbringing that I did. It certainly kept me thinking and I imagine this book will stay with me for a long time.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

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Join us again on the last Monday of November when we will be discussing Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar.

Mini Pin-It Reviews #3 – Four Books From NetGalley

Published October 13, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Hi everyone and welcome to my third edition of pin-it reviews where I’ll be focusing on four books that I got from the wonderful NetGalley.

1 – Divinity And The Python – Bonnie Randall

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What’s it all about?:

Divinity – Where desire and deception both hide in the dark

The Cards Forecast Work
Shaynie Gavin is so much more than the sexy siren who mixes cocktails at The Python. A carpenter with a business plan, Shaynie is trying to amass enough funds to launch her own dream – Divinity, a place where up-cycled furniture from the past is sold alongside Tarot readings forecasting the future – and all in a setting that could not be more perfect: a former funeral parlor. Shaynie’s belief that Divinity is attuned with the passions, the loves, and even the lies of its departed souls, allow her to feel satisfied when the cards she draws there reveal Wands, the Tarot’s symbol for work. And yet…Shaynie would be so grateful if the Tarot would also, just once, illuminate a Hellnight from her past. A lost evening whose scars still slither over her skin, Hellnight haunts Shaynie. Yet when she calls the question of that chilling evening into her deck…

The Cards Forecast Love
…and love appears in the form of pro hockey star Cameron Weste. Weste is haunted by scars and superstitions of his own, and he wants Shaynie’s Tarot to answer far deeper questions than she first guesses this sexy lothario to be capable of. Who knew Weste was this intense? The Tarot, apparently. And yet…

The Cards Forecast The Devil
When Cameron Weste lands in her life, a stalker surfaces too, dropping clues to a connection between Shaynie, Cameron, and her lost, brutal Hellnight. Suddenly every card warns of deception, and nowhere feels safe. Shaynie and Cameron have to fight for their love – and their lives – as The Devil, their stalker, is determined to turn the Death Card for them both.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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2- If You Could See What I See – Cathy Lamb

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What’s it all about?:

In this moving, insightful new novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb delves into the heart of going home again, the challenge of facing loss—and the freedom of finally letting go…

For decades, the women in Meggie O’Rourke’s family have run Lace, Satin, and Baubles, a lingerie business that specialises in creations as exquisitely pretty as they are practical. The dynamic in Meggie’s family, however, is perpetually dysfunctional. In fact, if Meggie weren’t being summoned back to Portland, Oregon, by her grandmother, she’d be inclined to stay away all together.

Since her husband’s death a year ago, Meggie’s emotions have been in constant flux, and so has her career as a documentary film maker. Finding ways to keep the family business afloat—and dealing with her squabbling sister and cousin—will at least give her a temporary focus. To draw customers to their website, Meggie decides to interview relatives and employees about their first bras and favorite lingerie. She envisions something flip and funny, but the confessions that emerge are unexpectedly poignant. There are stories of first loves and aching regrets, passionate mistakes and surprising rendezvous. And as the revelations illuminate her family’s past, Meggie begins to find her own way forward.

With warmth and unflinching humour, If You Could See What I See explores the tender truths we keep close—and what can happen when we find the courage to bare them to the world.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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3 – Vatican Waltz – Roland Merullo

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What’s it all about?:

This book is for those who want a journey of the soul. What were your feelings about God, the Divine, your own soul when you were growing up? Did you go to the church of your parents? Being in that building, where your family said their prayers, did it inspire you also?

This book is about a young girl growing up with the gift of being a mystic. Sometimes, no words are needed to reach the heart of Divine love. Silence is the fare for admission to the land where you encounter the God/Goddess.
This young girl grows up with the gift of contemplative prayer. She shares her prayer life with her parish priest, who sees before him a future saint in the making. She receives messages from the Divine voice & visions that the Catholic Church in America is dying. Little or no vocations to the Priesthood. Her visions tell Her its time for Women to become Priests, like in the times of the Apostles. This voice is so strong that Her parish priest writes to an archbishop, who is willing to see Her. This archbishop doesn’t share Her vision for the catholic Church, for Women have been banned for centuries. But he sees that this young Woman is special. He can’t put his finger on it though.
So, He asks someone higher up, in the holy city of Rome, the Vatican, to see Her.

And off goes this young, innocent Woman, on a plane for the 1st time. But before She lands in Rome, a group of people knows She coming, and why. Would you have the faith, the trust in your soul, to obey the Divine voice & visions? This is an unexpected journey, full of excitement, danger & perhaps a change in the wind. Take this trip of the spirit. It could one day be yours to make also.

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Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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4- Beloved Strangers: A Memoir – Maria Chaudhuri

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What’s it all about?:

On and on we dream, we wish, we love – no matter that the dreams come to an end, the wishes evolve or that love dissipates like dust in the wind. Perhaps, what matters only is that we have lived long enough to dream, hard enough to wish and indisputably enough to love. One of Maria’s early memories growing up in Dhaka is of planning to run away with her friend Nadia. Even then, Maria couldn’t quite figure out why she longed to escape. It is not that home is an unhappy place. It’s just that in her family, joy is ephemeral. With a mother who yearns for the mountains, the solitude and freedom to pursue her own dreams and career, and a charismatic but distant father who finds it difficult to expresses emotion, they are never able to hold on to happiness for very long. Maria studies the Holy Book, says her daily prayers and wonders if God is watching her. She dreams, like her mother, of unstitching the seam of her life.

It is her neighbour, Bablu, the Imitator of Frogs, who both excites and repulses Maria by showing her a yellowing pornographic magazine, but it is Mala, a girl her own age who comes to work in their house, whose wise eyes and wicked smile makes her dizzy with longing. When she moves to New England for university at eighteen Maria meets Yameen, a man who lives in a desperately squalid apartment in Jersey City, woos her with phone calls and a marathon night of drinking in New York bars, and is not what he seems… From Dhaka to New York, this is a candid and moving account of growing up and growing away, a meditation on why people leave their homes and why they sometimes find it difficult to return. “Beloved Strangers” is an unforgettable memoir marking the arrival of a brilliant new voice from Bangladesh.

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Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP SOON ON MY PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category!

Talking About The Last Act Of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink with Chrissi Reads

Published September 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In the summer of 1990 – two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school – Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out, suffering serious head injuries. He was left in a permanent vegetative state. Over the following years, Cathy and her parents took care of Matty – they built an extension onto the village pub where they lived and worked; they talked to him, fed him, bathed him, loved him. But there came a point at which it seemed the best thing they could do for Matty – and for themselves – was let him go. With unflinching honesty and raw emotional power, Cathy describes the unimaginable pain of losing her brother and the decision that changed her family’s lives forever. As she delves into the past and reclaims memories that have lain buried for many years, Cathy reconnects with the bright, funny, adoring brother she lost and is finally able to see the end of his life as it really was – a last act of love. Powerful, intimate and intensely moving, this is a personal journey with universal resonance – a story of unconditional love, of grief, survival and the strength of the ties that bind. It’s a story that will speak to anyone who has lost someone close to them, to anyone who has fiercely loved a sibling, and to anyone who has ever wondered whether prolonging a loved one’s life might be more heartbreaking than saying goodbye.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: How would you describe the experience of reading non fiction vs fiction?

BETH: Great question! A lot of the times I really feel it depends on the subject matter and the non fiction book in question. Sometimes it can be a bit dry but other times it can be written in a way that is just as compelling as reading a piece of fiction. This was definitely the case with The Last Act Of Love. It was quite literally a page turner and I managed to read it within a day as I just couldn’t put it down. It was terribly sad and at times almost unbearable to read but I’m infinitely glad that I did.

BETH: This is a harrowing story but ultimately uplifting. How did you feel when you reached the end of the book?

CHRISSI: I’m not a major fan of non fiction, as you know, but this book completely pulled me in. You’re right, it was such a harrowing story but it really was uplifting and I think that’s down to the fact that you can tell, as a reader, how much love was felt for Matt. His family really adored him and it was plain to see that. I loved that we got to read more about how the tragic event affected Cathy long after the accident. It was heart-warming to read Cathy’s letter to her brother at the end of the book. This book was an act of love in itself, as Cathy rawly and honestly opens up and it’s a beautiful thing. I felt incredibly moved by the end of the book.

CHRISSI: What does this book tell us about the nature of love?

BETH: Quite a lot. Love comes in many forms but is especially strong in a parent-child or sibling relationship. Obviously when Matt first had his accident, the family cannot bear for him to die so do everything possible in their power to try and prevent this, even taking him out of the hospital environment and learning how to care for him at home. However, after many years when he remains in a persistent vegetative state, they realise that they may be making it more difficult for him than just being strong enough to let him go. Their last act of love is making the hugely difficult decision to let him pass away but it’s not a decision they take lightly.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non fiction – what was it about The Last Act Of Love that touched you so deeply?

CHRISSI: I  am definitely not a fan of non fiction, but memoirs have always been the kind of non fiction that I do enjoy reading. I enjoy raw honesty even if it’s hard to read at times. I really felt that Cathy laid herself bare with this memoir. As I mentioned before, it was an act of love in itself writing this memoir. I really feel like Cathy had the most wonderful relationship with her brother and that relationship did touch me deeply.

CHRISSI: Did reading this book, knowing it was a memoir, affect your emotions more?

BETH: One hundred percent. Knowing that all of this really happened and that the family suffered for so long made it all the more traumatic. It must have been a very hard book for his sister to write, although it seemed that she got so much out of this process. I feel honoured as a reader that she chose to share her experiences with the world and really hope that she can come to terms with what has happened in time. Such an emotional read!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author fiction or otherwise?

CHRISSI: Yes, I would. I thought Cathy had a very engaging writing style. This book, despite it being so very sad, was such a page turner!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s star rating (out of 5):

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Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Published September 3, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

I want life. I want to read it and write it and feel it and live it. I want, for as much of the time as possible in this blink-of-an-eye existence we have, to feel all that can be felt. I hate depression. I am scared of it. Terrified, in fact. But at the same time, it has made me who I am. And if – for me – it is the price of feeling life, it’s a price always worth paying.

Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how to live better, love better, read better and feel more.

What did I think?:

I’ve been dreading writing this review for so long now! Not because I disliked this book in any way – in fact I feel the exact opposite and as you will see, have given it the full five stars but because I’m not sure how my review can do justice to such an important piece of writing that Matt Haig has given us. The author has been very open in the past about his struggles with depression and anxiety and this book feels like both a breath of fresh air and a blessed relief for many sufferers (like myself) and even for anyone who knows someone who suffers with depression and/or anxiety (so, that’s probably everyone – right?).

I think this book is especially important for men. I’m sure we’ve all heard the shocking statistics about the number of young men who contemplate or sadly carry out their suicidal thoughts as generally speaking, they find it a lot harder to open up to people and talk about what they’re going through. Matt Haig was in a similar position at the age of twenty-four – that nasty, black dog had got under his skin good and proper and he considered ending his life. This book is about his journey back from the worst times of his life to his current state of mind, where he has come out the other side. It’s brutally honest, touching, emotional and very real and he gives hope to those sufferers that in their blackest days, there is hope and life is worth living.

“You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”

I read this book like one of those nodding dogs you see in the back of cars, every single sentence seemed to resonate with how I was feeling or how I have felt when depression gets its sharp teeth into your mind, skewing how you think about yourself and rattling your whole world and way of being. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, you feel like you’re never going to be happy again and the crippling emotion of it all takes over your life. The author knows exactly what it’s like and uses his experience and gentle humour to let you know that you are not alone – which is a huge comfort for those going through it and a fantastic insight for anyone who wants to help someone they love who is suffering. I read this hugely poignant book losing count of the number of quotes I wanted to remember forever and it’s certainly a book I’ll return to at those times when things are getting a bit much. If you know what it’s like to be depressed, read this book. If someone you love is depressed, read this book. If you don’t really like non-fiction – it’s not what you think, read this book. It’s relevant for everyone.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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