31 July 2015

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

FiNDING AUDREY's titular character suffers from crippling anxiety. She wears sunglasses all the time because she can't stand making eye contact with people, and she's more or less stayed at home since the incident, excepting a stint at a mental hospital.

It's a pretty heavy setup, but FINDING AUDREY is anything but: it is bursting with love and hope and laughter. It shows that recovery is possible, even if there are roadbumps along the way, and it illustrates beautifully how important family is.

Audrey's family is full of memorable characters: her mother that's obsessed with whatever The Daily Mail has published; her invested but occasionally clueless father (he reminded me a bit of Arthur Weasley in his enthusiasm for his children's lives); her gaming-obsessed older brother; her rambunctious younger brother; and Linus, her brother's friend, who...well, you know. It's kind of written on the wall. And on the blurb.

FINDING AUDREY is light-hearted and, dare I say it, cute. Not in a sickening way, but in a way that left me smiling most pages. I didn't feel like it treated Audrey's illness flippantly: it acknowledged she'd already gone through her lowest points, and it focused on her recovery.

I was a bit concerned that it would present a "love-fixes-mental-illness" narrative, but thankfully, it did not. Audrey sees a therapist, takes her medication, and though Linus supports her and challenges her to do the things her therapist recommends, he does not "fix" her. Indeed, he shows the sort of bewilderment that all of us who love people with anxiety have: the desire to help coupled with the inability to do so, and the misplaced anger that can cause.

FINDING AUDREY was fun, heartfelt, and honest, and I so valued the chance to get to know a narrator who dealt with anxiety. As I said, I have several friends and family who struggle with it, and the way Audrey described struggle perfectly matched theirs. It was nice to get inside her head, and I felt like I learned more from living her moments with her, rather than observing them from the outside.

Apparently, Sophie Kinsella is a fairly well-known name for her SHOPAHOLIC series, which I had never heard of. I don't know that I'll check out her other work—it doesn't sound for me—but I quite enjoyed FINDING AUDREY.