I know Felicia and was so excited about her book coming out that I'd pre-ordered it on Amazon months before it was available. Months. I was then so thrilled to see it at a local independent bookstore, that I picked it up, before my Amazon copy arrived. Then, days later, the Amazon copy arrived. This left me with two brand-spanking new copies of a book that I simply couldn't wait to read. And they sat. And they sat. And they sat.
I read other things. Other books. Other articles. I even read "work" books on marketing strategy and being an influencer and how to have effective confrontations & crucial conversations. Really. I also cleaned my house in a way that it hasn't been cleaned in two years. I cleaned out my closet (I got rid of shoes!), I re-organized my kitchen drawers and I cleared away three-months worth of mail. In short: I did the unthinkable to avoid Felicia's book.
Such a strong reaction - such an intense desire to avoid something - was curious and I'd like to say I didn't know why, but I damn well did: my mother (wow, here goes, I don't think I've ever said this here, among you) was an alcoholic. She died when I was 18. Cirrhosis of the liver. Was my childhood dramatic in ways it shouldn't have been? Yes. Was I forced to be the adult when I was just a kid? Absolutely. I knew, knew, knew that Felicia's book would detail similar situations, would conjure up my own past as she examined hers. I tried to avoid it for as long as possible.
Then one day - two weeks ago - I got up the courage to just open it. "A page," I thought. "Just one. Maybe two. And then you can do a few more tomorrow. Just start the thing already." And so I read the first page. And the second. I was off and running. I had to set the book down several times. I had to wipe away tears a few times. I laughed. I nodded knowingly. I marveled at the things Felicia went through that were so outside my experience all I could do was admire her courage. But mostly? It felt wonderful to be in the company of someone who had figured out the very things I've been trying to figure out. I felt vindicated in a way I've not been vindicated before - even through years of very excellent therapy (which I highly recommend to all, alcoholic mother or not!)
I was afraid to read this book for another reason as well: so much of my own struggle to complete a novel has centered around this issue for me - do I deal with my mother or don't I? Do I write the memoir and get it out of my system so I can move past it? Do I weave the experiences into fiction? Or do I ignore it entirely? Yet when I ignore it entirely, I get blocked. Stopped. Entirely flummoxed because I feel like a big chunk of my life experience and the many insights it has given me, are cut off, unavailable, not on-tap for me when I'm in my writing mode. As I look at the Writing folder on my computer desktop of stories and half-completed novels (yes, they're electronic, despite the fact that it seems every writer has their stuff neatly printed in a drawer - who are you, I ask?), 80% of them are either directly about my mother, tangentially about my mother, or they have gone off-kilter by trying to avoid my mother altogether.
It is safe to say that Felicia's book was akin to a ticking time bomb in my newly cleaned and organized home. I didn't want to read it until I was ready to revisit my past and how that past has colored the present. Felicia's experiences are vastly different from my own. Yet, a few bigger themes, a few larger life conclusions resonated with me and have helped me move forward in a way I hadn't expected. Felicia's courage to face her own particular demons has inspired me to face a few of mine.
I cannot tell you what it would be like to read Felicia's book without this experience, as I wear different glasses than you. And you. And you. It is quite safe to say that these glasses are not rose-colored. I have read fine reviews of the book by those who have not had similar experiences (or at least those who have not yet confessed to them) and was thrilled to know her book has been met with such praise.
What I can tell you is this: The Sky Isn't Visible from Here had an incredible effect on me. Felicia's writing - so witty and biting and bittersweet all at once - sings. It is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. In fact, I've got a copy to spare if you're so inclined...