A Moth To The Flame by Debbie Sands

I knew Amy. Lots of people I grew up with could say that but did anyone know her struggles?

5/5 stars.
ebook, 162 pages.
Read from September 14 to 15, 2016.

I knew Amy. Not as well as I would have liked or for very long, but we grew up in the same town and had solid year together in the Studio Theatre class in our high school, the very one mentioned in this book. Her death hit the community and anyone that ever knew her hard. Perhaps this review is a little biased because of that connection but I am thankful that Debbie shared Amy’s story and her struggles.

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Amy as I remember her in 2003 – Studio Theatre – Foothills Composite High School -Okotoks, AB

Amy passed away in the summer of 2012. She was shot through a garage door with a bullet that never should have been shot and was not ever intended for her. She was 27 years old. Amy was eccentric, fun, independent, beautiful and confident. I’ll never forget some of fun times we had or the few inside jokes we created together. I remember envying her. However, few would have ever known the struggles that she dealt with and the problems it would cause in her adult life. Even more, few would have known about the struggles Amy’s family went through in trying to help her.

Amy had borderline personality disorder (BPD). A mental health condition that is characterized by overt and unstable emotions as well as abnormal behavior and relationships with others. Sufferers often have an unstable sense of self and extreme sense of abandonment that can often lead to dangerous behaviors.

Amy’s condition drove her to abuse drugs and mix with a crowd of people that ended up resulting her death. The book details the intimate struggles that her family had to endure while trying to deal with Amy. I cannot fathom the amount of pain and how trying it would have been trying to manage Amy. Her family loved her dearly but at the same time did not want to be enforcers to her behavior. They knew she was troubled but it wasn’t until after Amy’s death that they came to determine that she had BPD. The book spares no details and gives the deep down trauma of living with BPD and what it does to loved ones. While the book was heartbreaking to read, it is also immensely insightful.

I had the pleasure of working with Debbie on during a Dewdney theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest around 2005. Debbie made a stellar Lady Bracknell and she never ever showed any signs of the potential turmoil that was effecting her private life. I am so glad that she wrote this book. Not only has she shed light for all that loved Amy but she is spreading awareness of about BPD. I hope that the writing process has been a healing one for her. No mother, or family for that matter, should ever have to endure what she went through. It was very brave of her to publish this book.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone with BPD or has a loved one with BPD. Or for those who have had mental illness effect them or someone that the have loved. And especially for anyone that loved or knew Amy.

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

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Originally published on  November 11, 2013.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 492 pages.
Read from July 24 to August 27, 2013.

I read this novel for a book club and for whatever reason I thought that this was a holocaust survivor story so it was a nice surprise to find out that it was about American bomber planes and the Japanese as I had not read any biographical content on this part of the war.

I have to admit there was something about Laura’s writing that took me a bit to get used to. I found the first few chapters long and way too drawn out and it took me a little bit to get used to her sentence structure for whatever reason. With that being said, I became very involved and captivated with the story and the characters after the first few chapters. I also appreciated the amount of effort that Laura took in collaborating this remarkable story. It must have been such an honour and a pleasure to interview Louie.

I honestly still can’t get my head around the amount suffering Louie and his comrades were subjected to after being captured by the Japanese. How does someone go on in those conditions? The resilience displayed by Louie and his friends still amaze me. What I don’t understand is how a someone can cause that much pain and discomfort to another human being. I am glad that near the end Laura included some of the perspectives of the tormentors, specifically the Bird, not that it validates at all what they did but it is despicable to me the things that some people can convince themselves of. I recall feeling as vengeful and angry as Louie did in the novel though I don’t know if I found the same peace as Louie at the end. I want people to be punished for their crimes and I don’t feel like the Bird ever was.

I really appreciated that the book continued on after Louie finally made it back home to his family. So many war related stories stop once they’ve reached the safety of home but while one battle has ended another one begins. So I’m very thankful that Laura was able to provide insight into the PSTD that these men experienced and how they were able to overcome that final battle.

Sixteen, Sixty-One by Natalie Lucas

4/5 stars.
(ARC) ebook, 320 pages.
Read from September 11 to 15, 2013.

Firstly, I would like to thank Netgalley for allowing me to get my hands on this extremely intriguing, tragic, horrifying and inspiring memoir. So far out all of the books I’ve read this year, this is the one I’ve had the most trouble putting down.

Natalie is a fifteen year-old teenager when she first meets Matthew, a sixty year old man. At this point in Natalie’s life she is feeling some of the emotional turmoils and insecurities that come with being a teenager, and like so many teenagers, Natalie wants to know where she fits in and who is. While Natalie’s family life is normal and healthy she is not close to her father, who was divorced from her mother and is distant at best. Matthew starts to become this sort of father figure(in a loose sense of the word) for her. He offers her the comfort of fatherly advice, love and the direction that she has been craving, along with philosophy, ambition, purpose and sense of belonging and understanding. He makes her feel special. Who wouldn’t want that?

They’re interactions at this point, while appearing innocent, were peculiar right from the beginning and it didn’t stay innocent for long. Matthew emails her often and has too much of an interest in seeing her. His topics of conversation start to become increasingly inappropriate. He asks her to lie to her mother so that their time together doesn’t start raising questions, he drops hints about his mischievous past of “Bunburying”, asks to read her diaries and leave them with him, as well as inquiring about her growing curiosity in her own sexuality. There are warning flags all over this behaviour but Natalie is fifteen and she has come to trust this man who has provided her so much comfort and insight.

Shortly after Natalie turns sixteen, she loses her virginity to Matthew, who is now sixty-one years old. Forty-five years… the two of them are separated by four and a half decades of an age difference. It took me a long time for that fact to really seep in. Forty. Five. Years…

Natalie does love Matthew and the relationship hints at romance during the first portion of the book it is quickly wiped away with the graphic scenes of their sex life and the appearance of Matthew’s true colours when she decides to go away to college. While experimenting in college, Natalie tries to find a way to define herself but her current identity has been built upon lies. She has to find her way out of the smothering embrace of Matthew’s control. As things escalate with Matthew, Natalie is sucked into an awful array of turmoil.

While I could never feasibly imagine being in the exact situation that Natalie was in, she described her story so well that I felt it. Their were moments in this book where I wanted to cry and scream and others where I just wished that I could cause Matthew mass amounts of pain. My biggest and only frustration with this novel actually has nothing to do with the novel itself but that <spoiler> Matthew didn’t get punished in the end. I wanted justice. He should have be jailed as a pedophile, beaten and shamed. With that being said, that likely would not have not done Natalie any favours in the end. Even though it would have been completely undeserved, she would have likely received some backlash from some small minded people if she or her family had taken retribution with Matthew. I still would have liked to have known what happened to him regardless, but it’s not his story, it’s Natalie’s.</spoiler>.

I wish I could meet Natalie. I wish I could tell her that she didn’t do anything wrong and that there was no way that she could have known that this was all going to happen. I wish I could tell her how amazingly strong she is and how much her story touched me. I hope that she has been told these things by those that care about her and that she has found peace (and her true self) by writing and sharing her story.