The Wrong Way To Save Your Life

the wrong way to save your life

Okay guys, I’m a little shaky today because I stayed up until 1am reading this book without realizing I had stayed up so late, and when I am up that late I am a zombie the next day. But I had to race to the computer to let you know that this book is life changing.

Stielstra has written a collection of essays about times she was afraid, or more generally, about fear. What makes you afraid? Chances are you will identify with the majority of this book. From parent relationships and care to job instability to simply being a woman, Stielstra takes us on a terrifying yet cathartic journey through being alive in the modern world. A world we are living in right now!

You know that my book reviews tend to be more about how I felt about a book rather than its literary structure and whatnot. I want you to understand whether a book is enjoyable or boring, exciting or dull. This collection of essays is just…everything you need. It’s a historical record of the world in the past 30 years, but if a normal person wrote it and was truly honest about how they were feeling. Omg it was refreshing and scary and it brought back memories I had hidden away just to survive what at least the last fifteen years have been. I felt safe to remember.

One of depression’s lies is that you are alone. Reading this book into the wee hours last night was like having a fellow adult look at me and say “omg yes this has all been shit hasn’t it? But I’m proud of you, you’re proud of me, and we’re in this and we can do it!” It was like having a big hug and a pep rally and a quiet space alone to cry all at once. I could’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing this book was and how I might be able to put it into words today. Stielstra showed me that even when things literally catch on fire, as long as you grab what’s important you can always find a way to keep going.

Please go buy this book as quickly as you can and read it and know that you are not alone. Life is fucking scary and difficult and You. Are. NOT. Alone.

Are you done reading it yet?


The Madwoman Upstairs

madwomanPicture your favorite ice cream sundae (or sandwich, honestly I could do both). Nuts, hot sauce, a cherry? Or like those fro-yo places where you can cover your ice cream with fucking breakfast cereal and full size peanut butter cups if you want. Colorful and multi-flavored, it has everything you want in a sundae (or sandwich, god I want a good club sandwich right now).

Oh readers, this book has everything. It is the ice cream sundae/club sandwich of books. The last time I loved a book this much was when I finished Kitchens of the Great Midwest. Our protagonist deals with unwanted fame, grief, learning to navigate college, falling in love, learning to stand up for herself, fear, a cool scavenger hunt, and reconciliation. There was one page where I had to put the book down because I was so surprised and also laughing so hard that my husband came in to make sure I was okay.

I must admit though that it was a slow start. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining Bronte, meaning that the first few chapters are about Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz ugh. I love books, but I have to really dedicate myself to slogging through the classics, and for some reason I never got to the Brontes. I have never read a lot of the novels from that time. So at first I was like, oh jesus, this author is going to try to back-door teach me about/make me appreciate these novels. But then magic happens and the books are just the vanilla ice cream/bread that holds this magnificent delight together.

Her father dies making her the last known Bronte, she gets placed in a weird tower room in her first year at Oxford because the regular dorms are full and our adventure begins. You will love her professor. James Orville III is a fast, witty, dry match for Samantha’s lost, sassy, grieving mouth. Her father is dead and after hearing her will Samantha is headed on a scavenger hunt to find “The Warnings of Experience,” which is supposedly her inheritance. She has a nemesis, a professor that is trying to find the “vast Bronte estate” and insists that she is hiding it from the (academic) world. And there is a ghost who delivers her father’s books to her one at a time, with clues as to where to search for the inheritance.

This books starts slow but opens petal by petal into one of the most complex, beautiful, fun, interesting, suspenseful books I’ve read in a very long time. Catherine Lowell is so amazing at keeping secrets, and things are only revealed to you when she absolutely means them to be. As I’ve mentioned before I am very alert for patterns and solutions in books and that tendency often ruins them for me, and I was legitimately surprised several times in this book. And it takes about two thirds of the book to get one of the resolutions you’ll be wanting, and it’s sooooo satisfying. 😀

Please read this book. Please enjoy it as much as I did. I plan to make this a book that I own, not just borrow. I have to read it again and again.