Popular blogger Janelle Hanchett’s memoir “I’m Just Happy to Be Here” is a tragicomic account of how early motherhood and marriage propelled her into a cycle of drug and alcohol addiction from which she narrowly escaped.
Hanchett, the creator of the Renegade Mothering blog, was a senior in college when she discovered that she was pregnant by Mac, a 19-year-old rancher’s son she had been dating for three months. Feeling she had let down a family that believed she would “do something impressive in life,” the author gave birth to a baby girl, married Mac and settled into uneasy domesticity, which she made more manageable by “remain(ing) drunk about 40 percent of my waking hours.” Eventually diagnosed with postpartum depression, she tried to ease the tedium and isolation of stay-at-home life by taking a job as a receptionist. Instead, she found herself drinking more heavily and fighting with Mac, who drank in codependent solidarity with her. She left Mac and then returned and became pregnant again, vowing to make her family life work. Instead, she and Mac continued drinking and doing drugs together. After a psychiatrist diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder, Hanchett began what would become an ongoing search for a “rehab that would cure me.” But she found no relief. Her clinic stays became islands of temporary sobriety in a life that seemed to become increasingly dedicated to self-destruction. Her body and marriage on the verge of irrevocable collapse, the author unexpectedly found salvation in the counsel of a fellow recovering alcoholic she named “Good News Jack.” His brutal honesty forced Hanchett to realize that in order to rebuild her life, she had to let go of reason and put her faith in “the pulse holding the stars… (and) the thing that makes me alive beyond breath.” By turns painful and funny, the book explores the pressures of modern motherhood while chronicling one woman’s journey toward acceptance of her own limitations and imperfections.
“I’m Just Happy to Be Here” is a searingly candid memoir.
(Hanchett will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. July 13 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)
The sentence of eternal life
In a frighteningly plausible future, the economy revolves around the currency of health, life spans are potentially eternal and the new have-nots are born with poverty encoded in their genes.
In Rachel Heng’s “Suicide Club,” Lea Kirino is a career Lifer. At 100 years old, she is already high up the ladder at the Healthfin fund, where she spends her days working with clients whose fortunes are invested in the organ trade — mostly hearts, lungs and livers. A stringent devotee of the shadowy Ministry’s recommendations for maximum life expectancy, Lea and her equally genetically pedigreed fiance, Todd, are perfectly poised to join the long-rumored Third Wave. If chosen to receive newly developed life-prolonging treatments, Lea’s expected life span of 300 years might be extended indefinitely through a combination of organ replacement, enhancements, nutrient and exercise regimes and, of course, strict avoidance of cortisol-increasing activities like listening to music or looking at art. Yet, even with immortality at stake, Lea can’t let go of the complications of her past — her brother’s death, her own violent impulses, the disappearance of her “antisanct” father, Kaito, who turned his back on the family 88 years ago and hasn’t been seen since. When Kaito suddenly returns, his radical influence stirs up Lea’s own unruly impulses and exposes her to scrutiny from the Ministry. His presence also has the unintended consequence of introducing her into the inner circle of the Suicide Club — a group of well-connected rebels who choose the crime of death over the sentence of eternal life — forcing Lea to decide if living means the experience of life or adherence to the cult of immortality that has replaced all other forms of culture in this speculative New York of the future. Heng expertly threads a ribbon of dread through her glittering vistas and gleaming characters; however, the plot is so solidly foreshadowed that the climax, when it comes, feels almost preordained. This speaks to the intricacy of the world Heng has created and sets a dark mirror against the robotic bureaucracy of the Ministry’s oversight that assigns at birth “an algorithm (that) decides who lives and who doesn’t” so as not to waste resources on anyone with subpar genetic potential. Unfortunately, it also undercuts the author’s considerable skill at rendering her characters in all their solid, bodily reality by making their actions seem less like startling acts of free will and more like functions of an overweening plot.
This complicated and promising debut spoofs the current health culture craze even as it anticipates its appalling culmination.
(Heng will speak and sign copies of her book starting at 7 p.m. July 19 at BookPeople. Free to attend; only books purchased at BookPeople are eligible for signing. Information: bookpeople.com.)
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