The author deserves kudos for crafting nonfiction that reads like a novel, but her all-too-human faults sometimes make her a challenging protagonist. Though she’s a therapist who understands toxic family dynamics, she’s often blindsided by those she loves. Still, she describes them vividly, particularly the sadness of her parents’ final years and the triplets’ struggles. Her attempts to confront her parents are understandable, but her bad timing makes for cringe-worthy moments. Her account of grieving her ex-husband’s death is an evocative portrait of being emotionally stuck, but the overabundance of self-analysis is difficult to read.
Ahlenberg makes the curious authorial decision to only briefly summarize the eventual upward trajectory of her personal story. She writes that she has not “taken the room here to tell” about her joy, but after so much emphasis on her sadness, readers will wish for balance. Regardless, the underlying resilience of her spirit comes through. Readers looking for stories of coping with difficult relatives and childhood sorrows will find this memoir satisfying and inspiring.
Takeaway: Fans of beautiful prose and sad stories with a glimmer of hope will be satisfied by this memoir of a family’s fragmentation.
Great for fans of Great for fans of Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle; Annabelle Gurwitch’s Wherever You Go, There They Are.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B
I’ve never read anything like this book, and I’m sure hers is a new contemporary voice. There is a darkness which pervades . . . truths we’d rather not know, be told, or be made to hear. Nonetheless, we are not alone in the reading; Ahlenberg is right there with us and she never leaves us wandering. She takes the reader along, like a sure psychological guide, working nonchronologically, giving us our free associations, while she remains ever present in the writing, the way a well-examined mind works and remembers. In her words, “ Feelings are never without their opposites. And each one has its range. All of it has music.”
Marilyn Palasky PhD, LCSW
American Associaton for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work