o, I didn’t get this because I was depressed about my cat’s passing (well, maybe a little). Titled as above, and subtitled as Not a Self-Help Book, Seriously), it intrigued me. The cover shows a hand holding a wick of sorts, which turns out to be the light (we find) that surgeons on night-shrouded battlefields and inside shot-ravaged frigates used to illuminate their patients. It’s a desperate form of healing illumination – fitting.
So inside this curious book, we see a dedication to a bunch of people “but not Sandra”, and the statement (which I love) – “On day, if you’re lucky, you’ll say something beautiful and true and people will love you for a little while.”
See, it’s already strange.
At this point, we begin a long string of emails from Sandra to Iain (our author) about the new self-help book he’s been commissioned to write. These are followed by his replies and his submissions. At first, yes, they are a little scatterbrained, moving from this topic to that, all true in a bit of an unstructured way. Sandra patently corrects Iain to the book she envisions, and Iain’s corrections are a little more off the mark. She proposes a horrible cover for the book, noting that it’s going to be made into a major motion picture. And Iain continues his thoughtful prevarications, attempting to give Sandra what she requests while remaining true to herself.
And that’s how it continues as their relationship gets more strained, as Sandra threatens legal action, as Iain fusses about what makes people happy, slipping even further afield. Yet his suggestions and observations, even as he seems to be coming unglued, bear a great deal of truth. I particularly found one fascinating (and forgive me if I misrepresent it) that claims that if you love someone and are loved back, you have entered a game of chicken with them, where the looser will have to watch the winner eventually wither and die, and then be left with the grieving and the aftermath. Like, isn’t that true for me. He also adds that this means that smoking is cheating, since it shortens your lifespan and increases your chance of winning. Hmmm.
And on it goes. Even the exercises are though-provoking: If your body was inhabited by someone you really respected and admired, how would you treat them? Why don’t you treat yourself like that? And as Sandra and Iain fight it down to the bitter end, there are Iain Thomas’s poems and short stories, each wonderfully interesting. There is even his drawings. There is a lot to get from a book like this.
And what happens? Does Iain satisfy Sandra, or does she bankrupt him with legal action? There is actually a climax and conclusion to this story, but since I never do spoilers in my reviews, I won’t do so with this book that isn’t a self-help book but, in a strange way, is. So do yourself a favor – pick up this clever little thing and read it. It might help you.