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While reading Wendy Parkins’ memoir I was reminded of how universal the need is among humans of knowing who we are and why we are.
The author has recorded with remarkable honesty the breakdown of her spirit under the pressure of the life she was living. While she began to write of her struggles as a means of coping with what was happening, she discovered more about herself, not only in the distressing present, but also how her life as a child and adolescent had shaped her, and, perhaps, had pre-disposed her to the behaviours that were now causing her so much suffering. Her intellectual capability and strength of spirit were an obvious asset in withstanding the terrible assault on her mind and personality. Even while in the midst of her breakdown, Wendy looked for possible reasons for why she was suffering, going back to memories of her childhood and of her relationships with her parents and others, considering interactions that she had never before given thought to in her busy, fulfilling life as an academic.
I was immensely impressed with the courage it required of the author to continue living through such catastrophic trauma, and not only to continue living but to keep searching for the “why”. The author, herself, may have benefited by writing her story, but we, the reader, benefit also by acknowledging the frailties and resilience we all share as humans.
Memoirs such as this help us to develop empathy and understanding not only for others but for ourselves as well.
Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra
Every morning, so far, I’m Alive
by Wendy Parkins
Published by Otago University Press