I read two very similar and very different memoirs last month. Both are written by women and focus their own lives in the way I just adore (if you have read my blog for any length of time you know how much I love memoirs written by women), but I only loved one of them and thought the other fell a bit flat.
So Sad Today by Melissa Broder
Verdict: I think I might be in love.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Memoir; Creative Non-Fiction
Published by Scribe, 2016
I love the way Melissa Broder writes. There is something mesmerizing in the way she structures her sentences and her essays. I read her debut novel The Pisces earlier this year and fell so much in love that I more or less immediately went out and bought this one. And I am so very glad I did.
My favourite essay in this collection is “I want to be a whole person but really thin” – it’s repeating sentences and sentence structures hammered home a point so painful and real that all the other essays that followed could not quite keep up with. Broder unflinchingly looks into her own eating disorder and the way it impacts her life and does so stylistically brillaint.
In general, So Sad Today is painfully honest in a lyrical way that made reading it a total joy while also giving me whiplash. Melissa Broder does not shy away from the uglier parts of her life and her personality. She centers herself in her art in that unapologetic way that I just adore.
Sick by Porochista Khakpour
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Published by HarperPerennial, June 2018
This might be my biggest reading disappointment of the year so far. I have been looking forward to this book for ages and when it finally arrived I jumped straight into reading it. I find the story Porochista Khakpour tells – of illness that went years without a diagnosis, about racism and sexism in medicine, about addiction and losing oneself – so very very important and relevant, but the execution just did not work for me. I found the structure of the book unhelpful, the jumping back and forth, sometimes within the same paragraph difficult to follow and frustrating, even though I can see how that could have worked wonderfully.
She says in the acknowledgments that she stripped her memoir of everything but herself – and maybe she was a bit too successful in that aim. I left the book not even quite knowing what Lyme Disease does to her, or what symptoms she had. Her encounters with medical doctor after medical doctor felt undefined and somehow left me confused – because I know she wanted me to see how godawful the doctors were (and I am sure they were) but I could only ever see her. I think some grounding in the reality of Lyme would have worked better for me.
My biggest problem was the prose, on a sentence-by-sentence level. I found it weirdly clumsy in parts, while sometimes being very profound. There were sentences however that I had to read multiple times to get to their meanings and I am not sure that was intentional.