Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For

Title: If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For
Author: Jamie Tworkowski
Page Count: 208
My Rating: 4 TURTLES: A great read, I definitely recommend.
*Provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review

In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. The piece was so hauntingly beautiful that it quickly went viral, giving birth to a non-profit organization of the same name. Nine years later, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an internationally-recognized leader in suicide prevention and a source of hope, encouragement, and resources for people worldwide.

Jamie’s words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. They’ve shown up on T-shirts and posters and even tattoos. Now, for the first time, Jamie’s writing is available in the form of a book. If You Feel Too Much is a celebration of hope, wonder, and what it means to be human. From personal stories of struggling on days most people celebrate to offering words of strength and encouragement in moments of loss, the essays in this book invite readers to believe that it’s okay to admit to pain and it's okay to ask for help. If You Feel Too Much is an important book from one of this generation’s most important voices.

This is very outside of the genre I usually review. I mostly read Young Adult, but I almost always review fiction. I accepted this book though, because I was intrigued and struck with the idea that I would regret it if I did not accept the publicist's offer. What I received was a poignant, beautiful, poetic story told through emails, blog posts, and songs. Each piece of writing was a vignetter that peered into the author's life while also conveying the message of hope that he focuses his organization To Write Love On Her Arms on presenting.

The narrative of the story is very interesting. Because it is a series of pieces he wrote at certain times in his life instead of a memoir in the traditional sense, it reads a lot like a series of personal essay listed chronologically. I found his way of writing very moving and lyrical, which was part of what made the book so unique and engaging. It also made it a bit difficult to understand at points since it does cross a bit from prose to poetry, but the ultimate message is always clear.

I kept thinking while I was reading this that it would be a great companion for a traditional memoir if Jamie Tworkowski ever choose to write one. I say this because these snippets pack such a punch, that I could easily see someone taking several more pages to unpack the scenarios behind each one. Even, I think, footnotes or an introduction at the beginning of each one would have been helpful, because there are several stories where the reader needs knowledge of current/past events to get oriented. For example, early on there is a story of how the author went to volunteer in the aftermath of Katrina, but he doesn't even say the word 'hurricane' until several pages in. Most people would probably realize what he was alluding to quickly, and I figured it out eventually, but because I was young when Katrina happened, it took me a minute to remember what he meant when he said people were in the Astrodome. There is also another story where he alludes to a well-known person's mental breakdown and again, while most people would remember this person after reading the rest of the story, some people who may have missed it or are in a different country, may have benefited from some extra written context.

One doesn't really need the context of all the stories to appreciate them for what they are. If you are a fan of this organization's work I would say this is a must read. And for those of you like me who are not familiar with TWLOHA, I would still really, really recommend it, not only because it informed me of a great organization, but because the writing is so genuine, honest, and hopeful. In such a cynical world, it was really a pleasure to read something by someone so committed to hope and healing.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases. 

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