This is a searing account of one woman’s descent into full breakdown, via a self-destructive path which threatens the carefully constructed life she has built for herself. As we learn more about Julie, it is clear where the damage has been done. In childhood, she experienced something no one should have to suffer and has spent the ensuing years telling herself she has moved on.
At the same time her husband, a man she adores even though his behaviour towards her seems inexplicable, is adding to her anxiety and depression. Behind a wall of respectability, they live separate lives, in the same house but with no communication. She drowns her misery in alcohol and reckless affairs. He escapes into an on-line world of porn and unavailable women.
It’s a desperately sad yet inspiring story. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Julie and Andrew find their way back to each other. I have to say that because to just say the story is a bucket of misery might put people off, and it shouldn’t. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to show there can be a way through.
There are a few issues which I couldn’t ignore; the editing, basically. In my copy (and I fully accept these may have since been corrected,) there were punctuation and speech marks missing, drifting between past and present tense and also a couple of typos. Again, nothing major but in an intense read, they were enough to take me out of the story at times.
That being said, there is no doubt this is a powerful story and one that is often overlooked. Behind the designer jeans, the coiffed hair and seemingly perfect life, misery, self-doubt and depression lurks in respectable neighbourhoods all over the world. It would be too easy to dismiss women like Julie as entitled white women with too much time and too much money, but things are never as obvious as they seem. This is a brilliantly observed slice of a parallel universe, hiding in plain sight, and a timely novel when mental health is, rightly, in the forefront of many peoples’ thoughts.
Looking at Julie, you would think she has it all. Beauty, a big house, and a successful husband, but everything is not as it seems. Julie’s lifelong search for love and acceptance has led her on a journey of self-destruction. What started as a little girl’s dream to live behind a picket fence has become the beginning of her undoing.
“She steps out of her car; her long, lean legs precede her. Her dark hair is perfectly coiffed, and her designer sunglasses hide her bloodshot eyes. She waves at her neighbors while unstrapping her children from the backseat. Leading them by the hands, she whispers to herself, God, I hate them. ”