Review: Girl, Interrupted

In this brief memoir, Susanna Kaysen narrates her experiences at the age of 18 when she tried committing suicide and was placed in McLean, a psychiatric hospital where famous figures, such as Sylvia Plath, had been institutionalized there too. Kaysen stayed there for two years with other young women her same age who became her friends.

Through vignettes without chronological order, she narrates the disturbing way mental health was treated in the 60s. It surprised me how normal it was back then to use shock therapy on patients, regardless of whether the patient showed signs of improvement or not. While it’s still used today in certain places, its’ popularity overall has declined. The field of psychiatry had made some progress, but there is still a long way to go.

Amidst her diagnosis, Susanna Kaysen was lucid and observant of what was happening within herself and her surroundings. Her voice felt sincere and insightful. She knew there was something wrong with her, describing her odd thoughts vividly. But when looking in retrospect, she also doubts whether she really needed to be hospitalized. Had she been a teenager in the 2020s, would she have been placed in the hospital? Or would therapy have worked better in her case?

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Review: I am I am I am

I am I am I am book review Maggie O'Farrell
  • Title: I am I am I am
  • Author: Maggie O’Farrell
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Year: 2017
  • Synopsis: An astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O’Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

Maggie O’Farrell narrates her many near-death experiences in this memoir. I liked her writing style, it was engaging and easy to follow along. The reflections she shares upon these experiences are thought provoking, making you realize how fragile we all really are. 

The chapters are not in chronological order and they’re titled by the physiological part of the body that was at risk during that moment. I expected a sequential retelling, the years are actually disorganized and don’t seem to follow a specific pattern. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the way it turned out.

While reading this, I was astonished because how can a person come near to death so many times? Some events were not so life threatening, others really were. Some were the result of the author’s behavior, while others were completely out of her control. At times, it felt O’Farrell was narrating a nightmare or a scene from the Final Destiny franchise movies — but no, it’s her life. All of these events did happen.

I also kept thinking that she must have really bad luck. But what does luck mean? She’s a successful writer, has the family she hoped for, and she survived each stroke of death, whether aware of the danger or not. Maybe she’s the lucky one after all. 

Overall rating: 4 / 5

Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - My Olivine Book Blog

The Glass Castle isn’t an easy book to review. It’s an incredible example of resilience, how you can put yourself out of any situation as long as you set your mind to it — regardless of your age. Some of the events described in this memoir were absolutely shocking, heartbreaking and mostly infuriating. At times, it all seemed so bizarre that I had to keep reminding myself that if the author wrote this book, it meant she got through it all.

I had mixed feelings while reading the book. Jeannette’s parents, Rose Mary and Rex Walls, were quite unconventional. Her dad was an alcoholic, her mom an aspiring artist. They could barely make ends meet, being unable to keep their jobs and moving from place to place like nomads. If they would’ve been a couple without kids, I wouldn’t be criticizing them. But being a parent means providing for your children, right? And the more kids you have, the more income you need to make to sustain them. Well, Rose Mary and Rex would have probably disagreed with that statement. The Walls children had to basically look after themselves since a very young age. For example, Jeannette’s first childhood memory is from when she was three-years-old and burned herself while frying a hot dog.

But before you start hating on the parents, there were moments in which they did show they really care for their kids. While there wasn’t always food on the table, there was always education. The Walls children spent some years being homeschooled and once they actually started attending school, they had already learned the lessons at home. In between the episodes of chaos, there was love and family unity. The parents had plenty of chances to turn things around and start living like a normal life, but their stubborn ideals prevented them from doing so.

Not to mention Jeannette’s writing. Simple yet captivating, while reading the book I was immediately transferred to the open desert or the the humid little town of Welch. I felt like an observer, witnessing the hardships of the Walls family, unable to do anything except turn the page.

This is actually the first memoir I read from start to finish. I tried reading Eat Pray Love a few years ago but wasn’t able to finish it, thinking the genre didn’t suit me. Well I’m glad to find out I was wrong.

Overall rating: 5/5

“Things usually work out in the end.”
“What if they don’t?”
“That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”

The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls