“I Laughed,” “I Cried,” “I Couldn’t Put It Down”: Reactions to My Book

Book signing
Book Signing for Ending the Pain, June 26 at the Adventist Book Center in Keene, TX

A writer and stay-at-home mom of two very young children, I’m in a growing period of life that is hard, and hard to examine with much distance or perspective right now…hence the dearth of blog posts lately. However, reactions to my book, Ending the Pain—which chronicles another hard growing period—are trickling in, and I am proud to share these with you!

Here is a sampling of the comments, messages, and book reviews I am getting via Facebook and Amazon.com most days of the week now.

I just want to say how much I love your book. I am recommending it to everyone I know; I wish it was required reading for all living humans. I cried. It is a life-changing book for me. Thank you, thank you! –Jodie

I just finished reading your book and I literally couldn’t put it down. I laughed and cried through the whole thing and feel like I know you already. Thank you for opening yourself up and letting God use you to bless others. I can honestly say, your message of depression and forgiveness touched me deeply. I have recently dealt with both of these issues myself and your words brought me healing. Thank you. –April

Your book was absolutely Amazing. What a tremendous story and pathway to healing. I just don’t have words, Lindsey. It was beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. –Connie

I finished your book today; I couldn’t put it down! Lots of tears and Identifying with your pain. Thank you. –Grace

I finished Ending the Pain in two days; recommend this book to everyone. Thank you, Lindsey, for writing this. -Janice

Hey! I have stayed up way too late reading your book the last few nights. 😉 (Too bad I can’t tonight, both kids woke up lots last night). I just wanted to say that you are a very talented writer, which is weird to say because it’s so hard to read this about at good friend. –Jess

Ending The Pain is a very well written book. I enjoyed the story of Lindsey’s life. I think many people will relate to her story and enjoy reading this book. It is worth it. God’s Word has power and Lindsey’s life bears witness to that! -Leah

Riveting! I couldn’t put it down. I could identify with Lindsey’s pain. I’m very glad that she found God through Straight2theHeart. I have had considerable healing myself. Jesus really did come to “heal the brokenhearted and set the captive free.” -Amazon Review

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down. I would really recommend it! -Amazon Review

Thank you to all who have taken time to reach out to me or review my book. Whether you are a friend, family member, or (previously) a stranger, your words have invigorated me, validated my story, and encouraged me to work (however slowly) on a second book. Please, keep the feedback coming!

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Four Good Memoirs for Moms (or Anyone Who Has a Mom)

One thing I seem to always make time for, even with new babies, is reading memoirs. For moms who are postpartum, or who get little adult interaction, reading true tales from other moms doesn’t just offer recreation; it provides a lifeline. Here are four memoirs by moms that I’ve recently read and recommend, not just for moms, but for anyone who has a mom:

White WallsWhite Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess in Between. I read this pretty thick memoir in the last months of my recent pregnancy. Not only did I relate to the writer’s story of reluctant motherhood in her adult life, but I also resonated with her parallel tale of growing up with a mother’s mental illness (in this case, hoarding). If you are at all interested in the psychology of hoarding, or the complex scars it leaves on kids, give this a read.

glitter and glueGlitter and Glue. I read this one in the week after I brought Seth home from the hospital, during my one and only week of breastfeeding. An easy, breezy read about the author’s summer as a nanny, this book had me crying at the last page–when she finally tied together her story of nannying in a home where the mom had died with what her own mother meant to her, so many years later. (You have to read the whole book to get the poignancy of the ending.)


the year my son and I...The Year my Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery.
I am currently charging through this one as quickly as my sons’ sleep schedules will allow, and having an emotional time comparing my three-month-old Seth to sweet little Thomas, who was born with Down Syndrome. This book is a record of the author’s first year navigating the exhaustion, disbelief, and other conflicting emotions that her disabled baby brings her. Beginning with a heart-stopping scene of premature labor, this one grabbed me right out of the gate and hasn’t let go since. Read this to understand the challenges of having a disabled child, and to feel grateful for what you have.

Ending the Pain Book CoverEnding the Pain: A True Story of Overcoming Depression. Yes, my book. While my tale ends before I officially become a mother (I am pregnant with Sam by the end), mother-daughter relationships play a big part in my story. My parents always had a troubled marriage, and when I am fourteen, it finally blows up with an affair and illegitimate child (my half-brother) whom we hide in our home until he is eight months old and my mom leaves. After that, my relationships with both my mom and my dad become complicated, and I carry my new resentment for happy families into my new marriage and new, happy (husband’s) family. Read my story to learn not only how I healed from suicidal depression, but also how I learned to make peace with my parents (and parents-in-law).

When you have limited time to read, make sure you choose well. Happy reading!

A Memoir for Disillusioned Christians: Addie Zierman’s When We Were on Fire

when we were on fireSometimes when you have grown up in a certain discourse community, or a group of people who share a common “language,” you learn to spout off sayings without even thinking about them. In the Christian world, some of these sayings include “born again,” “saved,” “lost.” You forget that outsiders don’t really know what these things mean. You yourself become desensitized to their real meaning. You can lose your faith when you realize that fellow church goers aren’t interested in probing for deeper meaning, or for deep relationships. Such was the case with Addie Zierman, who has recorded her experiences for curious readers.

Summary

Addie’s memoir, When We Were on Fire, shares the experience of someone who was steeped in evangelical culture from birth, thought she was on fire for God…and then fizzled out, realizing that what she’d always believed in was a lot of clichés that didn’t personally ring true.

Addie goes through a period of disillusionment, in which she starts to see that many of the Christians she knows don’t really care to get to know her and her problems; they want to gloss over the messiness of life with quick fixes, like “You will never be lonely with Jesus.”

“Yeah, but that thing about never being lonely? Sometimes I am,” Addie tells her Bible study group, and the leader responds, “Thanks for the feedback, Addie, we’re not really going there today. Now, let’s move on to question five” (a paraphrase).

Never being “heard” in Christian circles leads Addie to her rebellious-slash-depressed period, in which she tries to drown her sorrows in alcohol and an “almost” affair.

A turning point, if there is one, comes when Addie finds out she is pregnant. She decides she doesn’t want to be bitter for her son’s sake; plus, it feels like time to get over the past.

It’s sad to me that she’s still sort of cynical at the end; although the place she leaves the book might be just right for making her point that faith isn’t simple. A testimony can’t be broken into before and after, black and white, dark and light (and this is a point I’ve made on my blog, too).

Analysis

I really appreciate Zierman’s honest look at how her faith hurt her. Particularly well done were her scenes dealing with her ex boyfriends, paragons of virtue she aspired to imitate. She makes the point that a heart can be broken even if one “saves herself for marriage”; this happened to her by her boyfriend Chris, who, in trying to be a model missionary, exploited Addie’s innocence and broke her heart.

I also was affected by the theme of Christian clichés throughout the book—or Addie’s point that certain “evangelical-words-turned-weapons” “have grown so heavy; they groan, now, under the weight of all their baggage.” Some of her examples:

Like when you say, Sorry, I’m dating Jesus right now in order to terminate the possibility of a relationship with all its messiness, all of its complexity, all of its potential for breaking your heart.

You say, I’m saving myself for marriage, as if the heart can only be broken by the act of sex…

You tell the Church People you are lonely, and they say, Let God be your friend or they say, What a friend we have in Jesus! And what you hear is that you don’t have the right to be lonely, that if your faith was stronger than this, bigger than this, you would be happy.

And then, the main point of her book (to me):

And it occurs to you that the real work of faith has nothing to do with saying the right words. It has to do with redefining them, chipping away at the calcified outer crust until you find the simple truth at the heart of it all. Jesus.

I read through this book ravenously, because it spoke to some of the same issues I am lately unearthing by writing to my roots. I feel Addie’s rage at being fed cliché after cliché without equally experiencing practical demonstrations of Christ’s love. The thing is, as she writes in her author’s interview, people like her ex, Chris, are so steeped in the language, the clichés of Christianity, that they don’t even realize that, in following a God-appointed “mission,” they are hurting others directly in their path—doing “what Jesus would never do.”

It’s not entirely fair to blame other Christians. As Addie admitted, and as I will admit, we are guilty of also being the “Super Christian, bowling over others’ feelings with [our] passion. [We] have been unkind and careless more times than [we] care to admit. [We’ve] missed the loneliness of others simply because [we weren’t] really looking.” Yes. I know I’ve done that. And I repent of it, and after reading someone else’s experience of being on the other end, I pray God helps me to stop it!

Dislikes 

The F-bomb (along with lots of alcohol) starts showing up in the latter parts, when Addie enters her “rebellious” stage (warning, for you sensitive souls). Though it hurt my sensibilities, too, I did have to chuckle when she wrote, post-rebellion: “Though I’m trying to watch my language, sometimes fuck is just the right word” (paraphrased again). I see in Addie aspects of myself that I’m not proud of, but that are nonetheless there. She’s right; sometimes it is (the right word). Though I don’t condone swearing, I have to admit I do it sometimes; moreover, I think Addie’s done an important work  in being real on the page so we imperfect Christians can finally relate.

I would have liked to see Addie delve deeper into why she fell so low. As my book consultant wrote in her review of this same work, it seems Addie didn’t quite reach as deeply as she could have to describe what plummeted her into depression. It seemed to come too quickly, without enough explanation. Maybe the excellent foregoing chapters of her childhood/adolescence were the explanation, though. I can testify that a long build-up of factors can suddenly mushroom into catastrophe; after a lot of disappointment in life, you don’t need a cataclysmic rainstorm to wash you out—maybe just a little sprinkle.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book if you have issues with your faith or want to understand evangelical culture better. For me, the book has been inspiring on multiple levels: I feel both validated as a disillusioned Christian, and energized to write about my similar, yet different, experience. My memoir (currently in revision stages) ends in a better place than hers: that is, I don’t leave my church, and I discover a real answer for the clichés, which is The Hidden Half of the Gospel, or the message of my first co-written book, expected to come out in January. Maybe when the book comes out, I’ll send Addie a copy. I feel we could be good friends.

Book Review: The Glass Castle

Glass_Castle

Here’s a little memoir writing inspiration for you today, or just a great read (if you’re looking for either): Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle. After skipping past it several times in Half Price Books, I had to finally read it when both a comrade in my writers’ group and my editor suggested it.

Here are three reasons why you should read it:

1)    The story. The story of two genius, yet crazy parents and how their eccentricities drag their four kids down, it’s wacky enough to the point of being unbelievable; but I’m taking Walls at her word that this is what she remembers of her childhood. Imagine an engineer dad and an artist mom who are too freethinking to be shackled to regular jobs, who do the “skedaddle” whenever they get in trouble with the law. Imagine parents who would rather have their family live in shacks, ditches, or inside their van than have air conditioning and heating and plumbing and food—all in the name of chasing their dreams. It’s particularly fascinating watching young Jeannette and her siblings come of age amidst the chaos of their parents’ childishness (mental illness? I still can’t decide what would possess parents to act like this) and note the strength they muster because, well, they must. A fascinating psychological portrait of a dysfunctional family, as well as an amusing, and at times, heartbreaking, read.

2)    The writing. Vivid, fast-moving, and clear, Walls sucks the reader in on the first page and doesn’t let go until the end. As my editor put it, note the detachment with which Walls describes the “wacky and terrible things her parents did to her.” Walls writes details that a child would notice with the diction of a well-trained writer—and she doesn’t get overly analytical. Instead, she lets the reader point to her family in horror and amusement and disbelief and disgust. As my editor also said, children aren’t able to process what certain things mean; all they know is, “Here’s what happened.” Reading about the horrors of living in such a dysfunctional family from the perspective of a speaker who can only report, not analyze, is fascinating. Just fascinating.

3)    The reassurance that your own family isn’t that bad. After reading about Walls’s family, I felt a lot better about my own. If you can’t say the same, I am truly sorry for you, but at least you have the makings of a great memoir in your head!

glass-castle
The book’s title comes from Jeannette’s dad’s grand plan to build the family a “glass castle” in which to live someday. This image becomes increasingly ironic and heartbreaking as the book progresses and the family slides deeper into a squalor from which, the children slowly realize (and readers much sooner understand), they will never emerge.

The one criticism I would levy at the book is this: I feel there is no way an adult could remember in such clear detail (as Walls seems to) what happened in childhood. Though I ate up every scene with each painstakingly stinky or ugly detail, I found myself disbelieving that she could really remember what she said at three years of age, or what her home looked like at four, or the fight her parents had when she was five, etc.

I voiced this to my editor, saying, “I could never write about my childhood so vividly,” to which she replied, “It’s amazing what children with dysfunctional backgrounds can remember.” I’ll have to research that, but for the sake of a great story, I was willing to suspend my disbelief and grant that Walls reported to the best of her ability (without needlessly embellishing) a story that was real and true, as far as she could remember. In the end I have to grant that, for a memoir writer, memories, however we filter them, are truth. So hats off to Jeannette Walls for letting us in on the horrors of her memory. Today I go back to my own memories feeling strengthened to report.

Prozac Nation—Review by a Former Pill Popper

200px-ProzacNationBook
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

In her memoir on depression, Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel paints an annoying picture of herself as a depressive, which includes being desperate and clingy, prone to panic attacks, dependent on boyfriends for her identity, ungrateful for all the good in her life, and selfish.

Reading this book, even I, a sympathetic co-sufferer, became frustrated. When is she going turn a corner? Why is she telling me this? I wondered. And, How can she presume to be the authority on this when her past was not as heartbreaking as mine?

In her afterword, Wurtzel responds to impatient readers like me, saying, basically, “If you got angry at me, good. I wanted you to feel that way.”

The Book’s Bummers

As Wurtzel explains, she wanted to convey what it was actually like to be around a depressive and, more ambitiously, wanted to give the reader the feeling of being trapped in a mental prison similar those in which depressives finds themselves.

Indeed, most of her book grovels in the quagmire of her own circumstances—her parents’ divorce, her father’s abandonment, her failed relationships, her struggle to get adequate medical attention—and this is what gets so  annoying . But at key points she surfaces from her self-obsessed soliloquy to take stock of what her situation reveals about her whole generation—and this is what resonates with me.

The Book’s Brilliance

What Wurtzel does particularly brilliantly is characterize the displacement that she and her whole generation faced as a result of the cultural revolution in the sixties. Her parents divorce is, of course, no very remarkable thing these days, but her brilliance is zooming in on this seemingly “small” detail.

She expresses outrage on behalf of a whole generation whose parents have led them to dismiss marriage like so many other traditions that used to give people roots—she expresses anger at the fact that nothing is held sacred anymore—and that individual whim reigns supreme. She characterizes how such a world–where individuality and mobility, not family ties or roots, are seen as virtues—leaves its children feeling hopeless and depressed. She doesn’t go as far as diagnosing the cause of the explosive use of Prozac in the 90s, and the booming popularity of depressed-obsessed punk rock bands like Kurt Cobain’s, but the suggestion is heavily weighted toward the disintegration of the American family.

Where We Agree—The Family’s Demise Spells Depression

Like Wurtzel, I firmly believe that by our disregard for the family unit we have self-imposed many of our problems. In our quest for self-gratification, we have damned and doomed the next generations. I think this is what the Bible refers to when it speaks of parents’ sins becoming a curse to the third and fourth generations. It’s not that God unfairly punishes children for what their parents did. It’s that children can’t help but be cursed when parents choose to be self- rather than God-centered.

How My Take on Depression Differs

I’m glad Wurtzel wrote this book, because now I  don’t have to. Years ago, a book about my life would have closely resembled hers, as far as the inspiration meter. Low.

Of course, inspiring readers wasn’t the purpose of the book. It wasn’t to make the reader feel warm and fuzzy, but to portray what depression feels like.

Although I used to envision writing such a book, once I had my conversion I no longer felt comfortable writing such a book. But now, having read Wurtzel’s contribution, I see that such literature has its place, even on a Christian’s bookshelf. Jesus didn’t look away from human suffering, and we shouldn’t either. My problem before was I felt I was wallowing. But now I see that the wallowing effect came from my audience and purpose for writing. My audience? Anyone who would listen, preferably those who had failed me earlier in life. My purpose? To get the sympathy now that I never felt I got when at my lowest points.

In all seriousness, maybe I could write a depressing book like Wurtzel’s these days without wallowing, but that’s only because I would no longer be focused on getting sympathy for my past wounds, but offering empathy to fellow sufferers. Yes, these kinds of books have their place. But since by God’s amazing grace I’ve emerged from that black hole, I’m glad that I don’t have to fill that market niche. And now, I can focus on the upward swing, not the downward slope.