Brightside Booklist: 4 True Life Stories To Read Right Now

October Brightside Booklist

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

Every month I find myself reading at least one book about death. Is it helping me to run faster from my fear of death? I don’t know, but I’m going to keep doing it until I figure it out. I picked this memoir up while I was on vacation (even when I’m having fun, I can’t have fun!). It’s a beautiful book written by the great-great-great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson who was diagnosed with cancer at 38. She writes about treatment, her thoughts on what is surely coming and whether or not to buy a new couch. It is this thread of the everyday, the mundane that I love about this book. Becoming sick and knowing that you’re are going to die doesn’t bring the day-to-day to an end. And everything that would normally seem simple, boring even, takes on a whole new meaning.

“It’s a complicated calculus. On the one hand, a basic cost-benefit analysis: How much money do I want to spend on something I may not be around to enjoy? On the other: Isn’t buying as expensive couch a kind of lovely expression of hopefulness? And after I’m gone, don’t I still want guests in my home to feel comfortable and stylish?”

“Also: an expansive bench that fits all of us. Something that will hold us through everything that lies ahead–the loving, collapsing and nuzzling. The dying, the grieving. Buying a sofa online, like many of life’s biggest decisions, takes research and trust, but mostly trust. As I lie here, with John’s chest rising and falling under my cheek, I realize that my careful calculations (How long do I have left? Who am I really buying this couch for? Am I getting a good deal?) are irrelevant. As in all things, I have to believe I’ll know what’s right when I see it.”

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir by Mark Lukach

Mark and his wife Giulia had THE perfect life (isn’t that how it always starts?). They marry, live in San Francisco and at age 27, Guilia has a psychotic break. It came out of nowhere and led to a toss-up of medications and hospitalization. After some trial and error, she recovers, their life carries on. She gives birth to their son and it all comes barreling back towards them.

I would say that 92% of books written on mental health are written from the point of view of the person coping with a diagnosis, but this book was different.  Mark’s love for his wife was obvious, but his candor was refreshing. If you have anyone in your life with mental illness, you will be able to relate to his desire to help her and his deep love. BUT you will also say, “YES!” at his frustration/irritation/feeling of been smothered by the act of caretaking. Watching it all unfold from the point of view of her husband and witness his evolution as a caretaker was what drew me in.

“I felt trapped by the impossibility of the situation. I didn’t trust Giulia to make her own decisions. I wanted to make them for her, which led to her resenting me for not trusting her. I didn’t want Guilia to resent me, but the only way to do that would be to allow her to make her own decisions, even it that included choices that could hurt or even kill her. It wasn’t going to work if I remained in charge, and it would be too risky if she was in charge.”

Yes, this book is about true love. Even more than that it is a book about what TRUE dedication looks like, even when you’re not sure you want to be dedicated anymore.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Everyone remembers when Columbine happened. Everyone knows who Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were, but does anyone know who they REALLY were? Dylan’s mother, Sue, wrote this book in an attempt to bring all of what she knew, and more of what she didn’t know, to light about her son Dylan. I’ll let these quotes from the book speaks for themselves:

“Tom and I were loving, attentive, and engaged parents, and Dylan was an enthusiastic, affectionate child. This wasn’t a kid we worried or prayed over, hoping he would eventually find his way and lead a productive life. We called him “The Sunshine Boy”–not just because of his halo of blond hair, but because everything seemed to come easily to him. I was grateful to be Dylan’s mother, and loved him with my whole heart and soul.”

“The ordinariness of our lives before Columbine will perhaps be the hardest thing for people to understand about my story. For me, it is also the most important. Our home life was not difficult or fraught. Our youngest child was not a handful, let alone someone we (or others who knew him) would have imagined to be a risk to himself or to anyone else. I wish many things had been different, but, most of all, I wish I had known it was possible for everything to seem fine with my son when it was not.”

With One Shot: Family Murder and a Search for Justice by Dorothy Marcic

I met Dorothy, the author, through my good friend Sarah of the awesome, AWESOME blog, Yes and Yes. She new I would love this woman and when I finally met her, I did. She lives in NYC, is involved with theater and KNEW MISTER ROGERS (*faint*). It turns out she has a real-life true crime case in her own family and after living with not-quite-the-whole-truth for years, she goes back to reinvestigate the murder of her beloved uncle, Vernie. His second wife, Suzanne, plead insanity, but the insanity didn’t end there.

This book was not only a murder mystery, but a portrait of a family that can become completely unraveled after a stranger steps into their lives. Suzanne was manipulative, surly and loved to drink (she was described as someone who “drank like a dehydrated desert inhabitant”). This woman was like a tornado destroying not only Dorothy’s family, but everyone else she came in contact with. The discussion of the details of the case became repetitive at times, but reading about Dorothy having to “play nice” when interviewing Suzanne and the rest of her family was fascinating.

Can you imagine spending hours trying to charm a woman who may or may not have killed your uncle?

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

What have you read lately? Let me know! If you want a FULL list of the books that I recommend, check out this link to 52 of my favorite books.

**And, as usual, you can click on the links to go to Amazon to purchase the books. It doesn’t cost you any extra, I just get a few pennies sent my way.

Brightside Booklist + The One Show You Should Be Watching

Home Is Burning by Dan Marshall

Home Is Burning by Dan MarshallYou wouldn’t expect it with a title like this, but this addition to the Brightside Booklist was FUNNY. What’s funny about a mom living with cancer and a father suddenly diagnosed with ALS, you say? Well, lots of things. First off, many of the reviews I read of this book went on and on about how insensitive the author was to his family’s plight. How crude it was. How entitled the author seemed. However, these are the things that actually drew me to the book in the first place. I appreciate honesty, humor and sarcasm and have greater empathy and understanding of people that appear REAL. You feel me?

Anyway, the author and the rest of his family’s lives are upended when their father/husband is diagnosed with ALS. You witness them all pitching in at various levels to help with the exhausting work of caregiving. Along the way, the author loses his girlfriend, his 18-year-old sister gets pregnant by her 36-year-old soccer coach (aptly nicknamed Creepy Todd) and there’s a lot of alcohol used for coping. His mother is treated again for cancer, uses a lot of pills and every description of her eventually includes her eating yogurt with a spoon.

As you can imagine, the story is heartbreaking. The author is able to portray tragedy in a way that is readable and enjoyable. It’s also a good reminder that  while the your life seems endless as the “normal” days go by, it’s important to remember that one day all you’ll have are the memories you’ve made.

Make them count.

Click here for more of the Brightside Booklist!

The One Show You Should Be Watching

Hotel Beau Sejour, NetflixThis week, you get a book to read AND a show to watch because, well, sometimes reading is too hard. However, in this case that doesn’t matter because there are subtitles which require…..reading. Don’t let subtitles scare you away. PLEASE, I BEG YOU. WATCH THIS SHOW, so we can discuss.

It’s called Hotel Beau Sejour and it’s an original Netflix series that is made in Belgium. Like I said, there are subtitles, but you’ll be so engrossed that you won’t even notice that they’re there. The story starts with a girl waking up in a hotel room and finds her dead body in a bathtub. She doesn’t realize it at first, but she soon figures out that she is dead. Her family falls apart and Kato (the dead girl with the SUPER cute hair) discovers that there are a handful of people that can see and communicate with her. She doesn’t remember how she died, but nonetheless, she attempts to help those involved to find her killer.

The show has a True Detective feel to it (only the first season, not the crapper second season) and they use a Dutch version of a Hank Williams song in the intro. The characters are nuanced and believeable and after every episode I get more confused as to what is going on with these people. Not in the “Credits roll and I look at Danny and say, huh? I don’t get it” kind of way (true story, several times over). I get confused in the typical murder mystery way, obsessing over it all like, “Who did it? The dad? No, it can’t be him. He’s too drunk to successfully wield a hammer. The sister? She’s all over Kato’s ex-boyfriend, that jerk. The cute guy fresh out of the mental institution? WHOOOOO?”

Go on, now. Go turn that TV on.