Monday, June 8, 2015

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel by Tanya J. Peterson

Release Date: June 1, 2014
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Author Website: 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Brian Cunningham knew he was the worst of everything - the worst employee, the worst son, the worst pet owner, the person alive on the planet. Whenever he attempted a simple task such as a five minute conversation with a coworker, his world tilted, chest tightened and his heart nearly beat out of chest. Working as a night shift janitor as a local school allowed him the freedom to ready the classrooms with pride but without all the interactions.

Without warning his whole world shifted. His best (and only) friend in the world left him. New management at the school watched his every move and added responsibilities were placed upon his shoulders. As the walls close in and left him floundering, a small hand pulled him from the edge. Can a child with so many problems of her own help Brian with any of his? Will he be able to save her at the moment she needed it most?

This book was one of those chance findings when I was looking through the various selections offered at NetGalley. I don't know exactly what pulled me toward this book, but I was glad I ended up reading it. Maybe it was because I identified with the main character to a certain degree. Maybe it was because I wished to see someone triumph over adversity. Whatever the reason, I can say with certainty that I was definitely intrigued and couldn't wait to discover what awaited me between the book's cover.

Told through Brian's eyes and experiences, the author gave a voice to all the worrying and the character's  anxious thought processes as he encountered various situations. From the very first chapter the high level of anxiety that Brian experienced on a daily basis was front and center. I could tell right away that he was painfully shy on top of all the other worries he admitted to within the first chapter. The bombardment of his thoughts could be off-putting for some readers. I can understand that as they were almost too much for me to continue reading because I could emphasize with Brian. So much so that I felt the anxiety and sadness roll off his character in waves. As the story continued and more characters were introduced, an increase in anxiety was evident and expected. For Brian the only reason to get up in the morning despite the exhaustive panic attacks he endured was a little girl who seemed more lost than he was.

The rest of the characters were well fleshed-out, giving a voice to different concerns and misconceptions as the story unraveled. In fact their behavior or dialogue affected the pace of the story. During some of Brian's panic attacks, the pace was fast and bordering on frantic. When other characters appeared with a calming presence, the pace slowed to allow time to breathe and process what happened. I could guess some of the events to be uncovered by the way Brian and his coworkers reacted, but I was also pleasantly surprised when a few didn't go the way I thought they would. My heart ached when pieces of Abigail's story came to light. She was the little girl who captured everyone's attention with her bright eyes, desire to fit in and the gut-wrenching history. Her small voice broke through defenses of many characters and brought needed change in all their lives. One character really annoyed me by her treatment of Brian despite the fact that she professed to do it out of love.

All in all, this book wasn't something I was looking for, but was one I needed to read. Anyone experiencing anxiety or other such disorders will be able to relate to what Brian's going through. In fact much of the book stayed with me long after I finished the final chapter. The whole journey felt overwhelming in the beginning. By the time I reached the end, I felt hope and happiness as some issues were completely resolved. Others needed more time, but I have no doubt they would be resolved as well. The author tapped into something that I think many people in today's world felt at one time or another. Even with technology connecting the world, people feel more alone and lost than ever before. If you're looking for a book with characters to root for or something that wraps its words around you and doesn't let go, this is a book you need to have on your list.

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel by Tanya J. Peterson is currently available at a number of online retailers and local bookstores. This book can be purchased in either paperback or digital (Kindle) versions. Below is a link to the Amazon page for the book.
My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel by Tanya J. Peterson

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