A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney

My husband observed the mammoth pile of discarded tissues next to Rob Delaney’s memoir, A Heart That Works, and asked, “Why do you do this to yourself?” The same question was asked when I watched Ricky Gervais’s After Life, read Yanagihara’s A Little Life, and actually, the list goes on and on. I cry to the point of a migraine. I don’t really know why I go back for more.

So, if you are planning on picking up Delaney’s memoir about the time during which his one-year-old son, Henry, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and then died, know that it is devastating, humorous in parts, confronting and beautifully written with unflinching honesty. Continue reading

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

This could be the most mentally ill family in America.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker chronicles the life of the Galvin family in parallel with the understanding and treatment of schizophrenia. The Galvins had twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia. The children were diagnosed in the sixties and seventies, at a time when scientists and doctors understood little about the illness. It was an era of institutionalisation, lobotomy and shock therapy. At that stage, clinicians predominantly focused on ‘nurture’ as the cause of schizophrenia, however, by the eighties a group of researchers were looking for genetic markers to explain the illness. Continue reading

Tacky by Rax King

There was a line in Rax King’s memoir (organised as essays), Tacky, that immediately reminded me of a night out with a dear friend. We had a loose plan to see the movie Black Swan. I called her to fine tune the plan, and she intimated that she wasn’t feeling up to something as cerebral as ballerinas’ doppelgängers. “Okay”, I said, “What about Hall Pass?” She agreed and said that I was the only person she’d see that movie with. I took this has a huge compliment.

“You’re seeing that? Like in theaters?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “I don’t anticipate remembering that Ghoul Clinic exists when it’s time for the DVD release.”
“Why are you seeing it if you don’t think it’s going to be good?”
Some people. Continue reading

Living with ‘The Gloria Films’ by Pamela J Burry

You only have to say ‘Pammy’ to a counsellor and they will know exactly who you are talking about. It’s why I pounced on  Living with ‘The Gloria Films’ by Pamela J Burry.

At some point in every counsellor’s training, they will be shown ‘The Gloria Films’. In the films, newly-divorced mother, Gloria, has three psychotherapy sessions with celebrated therapists – Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis and Fritz Perls – and each gives their response to what was most troubling Gloria at that time – dating and fielding questions about her sex life from her then nine-year-old daughter, Pammy. Continue reading

Cultish by Amanda Montell

I think almost everyone I know has had a brush with pyramid sales multi-level marketing (MLM). Has a ‘friend’ tried to sell you a cleaning cloth, vitamins (that make you thin AND rich), or suggested an evening with girlfriends, trying bras on in the comfort of your lounge room? My standard response is that I’m happy to buy something from a catalogue to support them but there will be no parties (hosting or attending). I loathe the sales pitch that must be endured at these events.

I picked up Amanda Montell’s book, Cultish, because I was interested in her classification of MLM as a ‘cult’. Some might consider that a stretch, but Montell provides evidence and also examines other groups that we traditionally think of as cults such as Heaven’s Gate, Scientology, and The Family, as well as modern, ‘socially acceptable’ cults such as SoulCycle and Peloton. The core of her thesis is that one thing unites these groups – language. Continue reading

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

The story of a family is always a story of complicity.

As always, I struggle to review books that I loved unequivocally. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood is such a book.

Lockwood’s memoir focuses on her father, Greg, who, despite being married with five children became a Catholic priest (there’s a loophole in the Vatican rules). As Lockwood describes, after years of being a Lutheran pastor, “…he was tired of grape juice. He wanted wine.”

She creates a striking portrait of Greg – a guitar-toting, gun-cleaning man, who has a penchant for cream liqueurs and struts around in his underwear, making bullish demands of his family. Continue reading

Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun

A group of friends and I have adopted the ‘five minutes for ailments’ rule, for when we get together. Otherwise, discussions about health (and the health of our partners, parents and kids) would sap hours. Seriously, hours. This is my oldest group of friends – we were teens together in the eighties, at uni in the early nineties and had kids in the 2000s. I’m providing the timeline to give context to Ada Calhoun’s book, Why We Can’t Sleep. Continue reading