Monday, March 30, 2015

Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Doubleday

Rating: 4 out 5 stars.

Hard-working and fun-loving Anna Lyndsey spent her days working at a fast-paces, high-stressed job, but she loved every moment of it. That was until the moment she began to feel a fire simmering beneath her skin as she worked in front of her computer. As the burning intensified, it also spread from her face to her entire body, causing her to finally confine herself to a blackened room in the house of her boyfriend, Pete.

In her own words Anna recounted the downward spiral as light of any kind became her enemy. The various games, books and mental exercises used to keep her mind sharp fill the long hours when she was trapped inside her dark room during the long periods of time when the slightest bit of light set her entire body aflame. She explored various doctors, natural medicines and even outlandish advice to help ease her illness. Follow her journey through the darkness that has become her world.

I requested to read this book from the Nonfiction section at NetGalley for a couple of reasons. I was intrigued by the sudden onset of the author's symptoms and the radical changes she and those she loved had to make in order to accommodate her. However, the most important reason I felt intrigued was the simple fact that I felt I could relate with her adaptation to her chronic illness as I also have a chronic illness. Though the illness of the author was (and currently still is) much more extreme than my own, I was still able to empathize with the despair, the darkness inside the soul and the feeling of being a burden upon loved ones and friends.

The book was written in first person point-of-view so that the reader experienced the world through Anna's eyes. Her thoughts, feelings, and desires were written in honest, sometimes harsh, passages as she detailed being in different stages of her illness. A small group of people stayed at her side from the beginning of the illness to present day. Her mother and brother provided whatever was needed from groceries to moral support through spending time with her in the dark room. The main provider of all types of support was her boyfriend, Pete. These people didn't seem like one dimensional caricatures of real people in the author's life. Instead they were well-rounded, flawed and as human on the page as they truly are in person.

Each portion of the book was written in a vignette style. Almost like passages in a diary, the author chronicled her life before the illness, the progression of the illness and the impact that the illness had on her life up to date. Included in these passages are mental games and exercises that the author found which kept her mind from turning to mush, as she called it. Her adventures with Pete were both enduring and comical as they sought to take advantage of each moment in the least amount of life before the darkness needed to swallow her whole once again. Not a very large book, there seemed to be a lot packed into the short passages whether it was emotion, desire, fantasy or simply relaying how the darkness played with one's head.

Overall, I really liked this book. Not only did it seem like someone else out there understood how it felt to be limited in what you can and cannot do, but the people who made up her small circle rallied around her, adapting their lives to hers. Though the book didn't end the way I thought it would, I felt there was still a door or two left open. When dealing with a strange, chronic illness, one never knows exactly what the future holds. Sometimes, it's not the exact future of which one has always dreamed. More often than not, it's the best future possible under the strain of terrible circumstances. This book should be on your to-read list if you're intrigued by rare, interesting illnesses or admire those who persevere despite overwhelming odds.

Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey is currently available online and some local retailers. It can be purchased in hardcover, Kindle and audio-book editions. The following link will take you to the book's page at Amazon.
Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey      

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