Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review: NOT ALONE

The subtitle for this book could have been Stories of Hope, and I don't think anyone would have found it ironic. 

Not Alone, available now from Civitas Press, is a beautiful example of what has become a growing trend from some publishers. Gone is the idea that a sole contributor can and does know everything about a specific topic; instead, this book is community based in its authorship. It spans a wide gamut of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with clinical depression. And it is the very fact that so many different and unique people have allowed us as readers to take a peek into their often private struggles that the book finds it's greatest strength: proclaiming not proudly but with open arms "You are not alone."

At first, the wide and sometimes jarring differences in writing styles, tones, and narration of the stories can be a little off-putting, but that is because we as readers have become adjusted to the comfortable sotto voce of a single writer sharing her or his opinion. In Not Alone, we are reminded that what one person experiences in dealing with depression is not the same as what every individual experiences. Age, gender, life experiences, sexual orientation, spiritual development - all are variables that can and do affect how we respond. A heterosexual male may not be able to fully, completely "get" what it's like to be a mother suffering from postpartum depression, yet both may be in the throes of their own versions of depression. And it is in this shared pain that they find community and common ground. Two or more are gathered in the name of hope, and they express to others the grace shown to them by the One who gives hope. In doing so, they offer help to one another to be able to emerge out of the darkness.

That is the true beauty of this project, especially for those of us as readers who may suffer from depression [raises hand]. Not Alone reminds us that for as much as we may feel we are at times, we're NOT alone. The title is not just a cute play on a phrase. We may suffer in a silence of our own choosing, but the authors recognize that many of us share a variation on the same theme of pain. By having the courage to speak up, to lay bare their souls and their sufferings, their accomplishments and their failures, their good days and bad ones, the family of Not Alone invites join them at this table.

Two words of caution: (1) the language in this book is as authentic as the pain and frustration that some of the authors feel, and as such, it at times comes across as raw. Real. And beautiful and perfect in the freedom to share what may be offensive to some; and (2) do NOT try to read this in one sitting. Soak in the lives of the people who are sharing themselves with you. Let the reality of what you are reading take root in you.

And if you see yourself in some ways on that printed page - know that you are not alone. 

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