This short novella was an engaging read with a unique writing style. The author has used the experience of writing this book to confront her mental health and heal herself in the process. It certainly has strong autobiographical tones but is fictionalised, particularly towards the end. I feel that a content warning is necessary here: discussions of suicide are included in the book, which I think are a good reasoning of why not to take one’s own life but for some readers the details may be distressing.
The story begins with the protagonist, Phoebe, being diagnosed with a terminal illness. We then have some flashbacks to her youth, particularly her college days, the time she worked for a music store and her romances. In between, she’s driving back from seeing the doctor and arriving at her family home, where she has a husband and children. Much of the writing is about her memories of friends and good times (including drug use), with some 90s nostalgia. Her best friends Rowen, at college, and Jaycee from the music store, are a particular focus. Her trip from New York to England – Nottingham specifically, to visit her boyfriend – was interesting to me, as we see her perspectives of the country (and almost the region) where I live. The writing style is a stream of consciousness blended with straightforward narrative. I thought there were some great sentences and effective use of dialogue. Towards the end I was a little confused but I think the writing was becoming more symbolic and it took me a while to realise.
This book could have benefited from more thorough proofreading before publication, as there were numerous typographic errors, misspellings and inconsistencies. For some readers I’m sure this doesn’t matter so much. It’s the kind of thing I notice.
I’m sure this is a novella I won’t forget. I appreciate its mental health theme and I love knowing that the author has written the book as catharsis. I would’ve liked more focus on the protagonist’s recent life, before the diagnosis, but maybe the point is that the memories of her youth are what she most wants to keep hold of before her illness causes her to forget.