Yesterday, I finished reading “Sorrow and Bliss” by Meg Mason. I don’t quite remember why I chose this book at this moment specifically – I have a long list of things that I want to read and sometimes I randomly pick something from there without looking at the description. This was pretty much the case and I have to say that I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but probably it could have been closer to 5.
The story itself revolves around the protagonist Martha who is suffering from a mental health disorder represented in the book with “-“. We don’t really know the exact name of the disease she has. I am assuming this is to bring attention to people who live with mental health issues and how they handle them without a specific disorder being stigmatized. We meet Martha at the beginning of the book just as her husband Patrick left her after her 40th birthday. Then, we get the rundown of her disease and teenage years “segwaying” into her adult years and her marriage until we get to the current point in time again. One thing that Martha was pretty sure of her whole life is that she did not want to have children but as we go through her life story, the question of if it was really the case keeps on coming back. I don’t want to say too much not to ruin the plot for anyone who would like to read the book. Just to give a glimpse of what is to come, we then observe Martha navigate her relationship with her now ex-husband, her “mad” mother, her always supportive dad, and her best friend/sister Ingrid from the point of her mental health disorder bordering with the victim syndrome. How about that for a description, haha?
While the above paragraph might sound depressing, the book is actually quite funny and well written – it is narrated from the first person (of Martha) with her witty and unusual observations about the world around her. Although the book tackles the important issues of mental health, it is narrated in a light-hearted and inviting way. One thing that I am really glad of is that there are more and more characters like Martha in contemporary literature – something that I did not quite see a lot when I was studying it as my major about 10 years ago.
As usual, here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Previously, whenever I heard the sound of his typing from another part of the house or passed his closed door on my way out, I imagined him in torment because he always looked drained when he emerged to cook chops. But as soon as he started pecking the keys with his index fingers, my father’s face took on an expression of private bliss. Within a minute, he seemed to have forgotten I was there.”
“Martha, he said afterwards, lying next to me. ‘Everything is broken and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the rations that change. Usually on their own. As soon as you think that’s it, it’s going to be like this forever, they change again”.
“It had been nearly a month, hours and hours of every day, and as though it was not her turn, my mother said, ‘Martha, no marriage makes sense. Especially not to the outside world. Marriage is its own world.”
I really recommend this read if you are looking for something engaging, meaningful and witty at the same time. On to the next one!