Saturday, June 24, 2017

THE MEMORY OF LIGHT BY FRANCISCO X. STORK - BOOK REVIEW

This book was a lot to take in. It was unapologetic and heavy in every way imaginable.


Hello everyone!

I am back with another review, today it is The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork.


The story follows Vicky, a teenager who shouldn't be alive. After a being saved after a suicide attempt, Vicky is sent to Lakeview Hospital where she meets a group of teens with mental illnesses like herself. Vicky learns she has depression, and the book follows her journey of trying to piece her life back together and live with her disease.

From the synopsis of this book, I was anticipating something like It's Kind of a Funny Story. But that book has a romance to lighten things up a bit. This book did not.

I'm going to be honest: this book was really hard for me to read. I've read some heavy hitting books in the past, many of which dealt with mental illness, depression, suicide, etc. but this book hit me the hardest.

Going in, I knew that the author had gone through a similar experience as Vicky with a suicide attempt and struggles with depression. This made everything feel so much more real. And in the reality, there was a lot of dark moments. I've read a lot of books about mental illness and I see the concept of "romanticizing" mental illnesses. I don't think I fully understood what that meant until I read this book. Stork portrays mental illness and the culture surrounding it with a rawness I've never seen before. And that made this book hard to read.

I think another difference with this book is that mental illness and Vicky's depression and attempt are the meat and potatoes of this book. In fact, I could even be persuaded to say that they are the entire meal. There is a whisper of a romantic relationship, but it is quickly snuffed out. This book is all about mental illness, nothing to break it up, nothing to lighten the mood. Which is both a blessing and a curse.

This is a really important book, but I just don't know if it will be an easy enough read to be accessible and readable for everyone. And this book should be read by everyone. The portrayal of Vicky's father and stepmother, I think, are very accurate representations of reactions to mental illness. Vicky emphasized her depression as a disease, and there are a lot of important points made about it being treated as such. You can't always see mental illness but it is still there. Her parents wanted her to be 'cured' in their way, by working through the depression and sticking to her routine, not recognizing that, for Vicky, her treatment needed to be more than that. Stork does a good job of showing Vicky's parents coming to understand her illness eventually and to help her how she needed it.

Despite the message in this book, I'm not sure how accessible it is. As I mentioned earlier, the story is unapologetically written. There are hard parts and a lot going on. We learn about other characters' mental illnesses as well and it was a lot to juggle. I think we could have benefitted from knowing a little less about the other characters, but then there wouldn't be the nuanced portrayal of different types of mental illnesses.

I'm struggling with my rating because part of me thinks this book is a great portrayal of mental illness, but another part of me feels like this book was trying to do too many things and ended up missing the mark.

Overall, a heavy but worthwhile read.