Hesitation Wounds – By Amy Koppelman

Rating:

How does it feel to be constantly burdened with grief, loss and guilt? When familial ties are not unfettered by your choice but all the “what ifs” are always going to haunt you?

In Hesitation Wounds, Amy Koppelman provides a searing glimpse into just what it is to live with clinical depression. To finally give up on life because of the inability to feel happiness. And what about the people who they leave behind, left to wonder whether they did all that they could to help? Whether they could have done more? Why didn’t they notice the signs that something just wasn’t right?  Ask Dr. Susanna Seliger, who has grappled with these questions for nearly thirty years. Her profession, as a psychiatrist specializing in treatment resistant depression is both her penance and salvation. Her encounter and conversations with Jim, her patient, forces her to face what has been the albatross in the cesspool of her life, and has practically repelled anything that could have constituted a semblance of normalcy and fulfillment.

The book’s 180- page length is pretty misleading. Literally every paragraph is so beautifully constructed that it forces you to pause, re-read and think. It is a second person narrative by Susanna, each thought screaming out as a silent lament and a melancholic plea. To understand and be understood in return. To forgive and be forgiven.  There is something so unflinching and no-holds-barred in the way Koppelman has shown us how it feels to go through so many emotions where you mind and heart is always a gooey mess because of the baggage of all the past that you cannot shed, and that in turn keeps nipping away at your present thus preventing you from creating and experiencing any new, happy memories worth recollecting in the future. So it is a disturbing, vicious cycle. And to be honest, around 50 pages into the book, I wondered whether it is going to be worth it sticking with Susanna till the last page. Because I have had reading experiences in the past where I felt short-changed in the end because the protagonists showed no growth or initiative to effect change.

Thankfully, Hesitation Wounds is worth it. The arc of the whole emotional narrative comes together in the final pages. And I love seeing things come to a full circle! (Without revealing much, I will just say that the book sort of starts and ends with Susanna in the airport).  As the reels from Susanna’s past memories roll towards the final images, she lets it go. But will the happiness she finds make up for the three lost decades? Well, when I took leave of her in the last page, she seemed atleast in my opinion, the happiest version of herself after a very long time. So, maybe there is hope.

If there is one thing I felt could have been better, it is the clarity in the timelines. Susanna’s reminiscences keep going back and forth in a way that felt too jerky and vague. I am guessing it was deliberate to an extent, to probably show how recollections can be jumpy, colored and all over the place, but it just got a bit frustrating to keep track of it sometimes. And while I loved all the metaphors, symbolism and “quotable quotes”, it felt a bit excessive making the book a laborious read at times.

Now, this is perhaps one of my favorite quotes, which I have Tumblr’ed and tweeted, but imagine reading pages and pages of this:

HWquote

(Speaking of quotes, check out some of my favorite ones here.)

Keeping these quibbles aside, I would definitely recommend the book for a stark insight into what clinical depression is all about. It is a monumental labor of love by Amy Koppelman, a tribute to a cause she feels so strongly about.

Buy links:

Kindle
Hardcover

 

Teaser Tuesday #2

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teasers:

27912522

“And so the walls within me crumbled, which often occurs when matter and faith collide. A rocket booster and salt water.”  – Pg. 43 , Hesitation Wounds – By Amy Koppelman

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Rating:

I loved Gone Girl, and for a long time I was under the impression that it was Gillian Flynn’s debut novel. It was much later that I discovered she had authored two other books prior to that, the first one being Sharp Objects. And you can see her flair for writing psychological thrillers and twisted characters in her first book too.

Sharp Objects starts with Camille Preaker , a small-time crime beat reporter assigned by her boss to dig up the story of what seems to be the beginning of a serial killing spree in Wind Gap, her hometown. Two young girls killed in two years, and both of them are well, toothless when their bodies are discovered. Yup, their teeth are plied out by the murderer, every single one of them.  Sounds like a pretty solid premise to base a decent murder mystery, right?  Well, midway through the book the case just felt like a crutch to explore the three main characters and their dysfunctional relationship – Camille, her mother Adora and half-sister Amma who she has never properly met till date. When Camille gets back to Wind Gap after ages, she is forced to stay with Adora,  Amma and Alan Crellin, her step-dad, so that she can increase her chances of networking and picking up quotes from old neighbours and friends. It ends up proving a bit counter-productive though, as her mom isn’t really pleased or supportive of her daughter’s assignment. The local police, assisted by a Kansas City detective, Richard Willis, aren’t forthcoming either.

As you read about Wind Gap, it’s history and folks; you get the feeling that there is something seriously off about the place. It just feels so suffocating and claustrophobic. And at the very least, quite disturbing. We the readers, of course, view that through the microcosm of Preaker/Crellin household.

Camille is damaged and recovering and loss of her sister and emotional abuse years ago, something she still grapples with and can’t make sense of – Did her mother love her? Did she love her younger sister more than her? Why has she always been so distant with Camille at home, though she is perfectly capable of pampering and nurturing to keep up appearances in the society?

Camille lashed out in her teens, by taking part in debauchery and cutting words into her skin. A decade later, she commits herself into a psych facility to wean away the cutting habit. But her stay in Wind Gap begins to take a serious toll on her as old memories, dormant resentment and hurt resurface. At one point she senses herself being sucked back into her old life with her mother, controlling, dominant and .. forceful mollycoddling. Even more unsettling is the new addition into the family charade, Amma, who at thirteen,  acts younger than her age at home, to get Adora’s attention, but acts out more than her age at school and everywhere else in town. She has a vicious streak and through her, we meet her gang of girls, all unapologetic about bullying, drugs, flaunting sexuality and just general meanness. Amma takes the cake though.

Adora literally treats Amma as a pet doll, and when Camille enters the picture, she isn’t sure how to treat this new development.  Camille can’t figure out Amma either. And to be honest, neither could I. So when, Amma seems to warm up to Camille, and has this candid conversation with her, where she admits she gets a real kick out of hurting people, you realize at that point that, both are, in a weird way, two sides of the same coin. Just that Camille went onto hurting herself.

So how did Camille and Amma end up turning into the people that they are? We also get a whiff of rumour about Adora’s mother being a cold, emotionally distant person. Is it a case of abuse handed down from two different generations and manifested in different ways?

So what about the murder mystery, you ask? Well, Flynn handles that too in parallel, but with lesser finesse than what she exhibited in Gone Girl.  The last few pages were convincing but rushed.  At 250 pages, this book makes for a crisp, sharp read. But if a few more pages would have smoothened those li’l frayed edges….