Thursday, April 12, 2012
"Agorafabulous! Dispatches from my Bedroom" by Sara Benincasa
In Boston, a college student fears leaving her own room - even to use the toilet. In Pennsylvania, a meek personal assistant finally confronts a perpetually enraged gay spiritual guru. In Texas, a rookie high school teacher deals with her male student's unusually, er, hard personal problem. Sara Benincasa has been that terrified student, that embattled employee, that confused teacher - and so much more. Her hilarious memoir chronicles her attempts to forge a wonderfully weird adulthood in the midst of her lifelong struggle with agoraphobia, depression, and unruly hair.
Relatable, unpretentious, and unsentimental, Agorafabulous! celebrates eccentricity, resilience, and the power of humor to light up even the darkest corners of our lives. (There are also some sexy parts, but they're really awkward. Like really, really awkward.)
Full disclosure: I won a copy of this from Goodreads. In exchange for the free copy, I was strongly encouraged to write a review of it. It took me a while, but here it is!
I saw this book in one of our professional magazines at work, I'm sure. Or maybe I just read the original blurb on the giveaway - I can't remember now. What I do know is that the book sounded good, funny, and something I was interested in reading. Imagine my complete shock when I received the "You're a winner!" email from Goodreads; I'd entered several giveaways and hadn't won anything (and didn't appear to be in the running for anything, either). I got my email, did a "I-can't-believe-I-actually-won!" dance, and anxiously awaited the arrival of my book.
When it finally reached me, I have to admit, I didn't start it that night. Heck, I almost never start a book the day I check it out/buy it/bring it home; call it some sort of sado-masochistic delay of gratification. Once I did begin, I realized this book wasn't exactly what I had thought it would be. Yes, some of it was funny. Yes, there were little vignettes of agoraphobic behavior. But I had been under the impression that the author was more of an editor and that the stories were to be from different people's lives. I know - read the jacket again, silly girl! Sigh. Anyway, I kept going.
What I will tell you is this: I think Benincasa was incredibly brave to write this book. It is an extremely open and honest exploration of her battle with mental illness, one that at times is difficult to read in its honesty. I don't think I could have written about peeing in dinnerware. Her book is a testament to her spirit and determination, and it shows that one can conquer mental illness if you get the help you need (and if you ask for it, which I know was a bit of a problem for her).
What comes out most in the author's writing is her love for her family. I don't think she could have gotten through this period in her life without her parents, nor would she be where she is today without some very good friends. If I learned one thing from this memoir, it is that one should speak up for those that may not speak for themselves. Her college friends recognized just how bad things were and contacted her parents, even though they knew it could mean the end of a friendship. I think people don't reach out often enough due to fear (or maybe apathy, though I hate thinking that). If something doesn't look/feel right, talk to that person and don't give up.
Overall, I liked this work. The author has a nice style, the story was interesting, and in the end, I would definitely recommend it to others.