Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Book Review: This Is Happy by Camilla Gibb

I chose this book because I so enjoyed Sweetness in the Belly. This is Camilla Gibb's memoir describing her
move to Canada as a young child, her father's mental illness, her family's separation, her own struggles with depression, and the new family she has now stitched together as a result of the birth of her daughter. 

It is a heart-breaking read in many respects, but it is also dotted with hope. This is Happy is also an interesting look into how depression feels and the good, bad and ugly of various treatment options. The book is filled with lovely metaphors, which expertly capture moments in Gibb's life. She comes across as a generous, thoughtful, damaged person doing her best to make the best of life. The entrance of her nanny, Tita, seems to give her new hope and faith in life. Tita jumps from the page as a brave, loving, faithful friend. This book made me question how our cold Canadian culture distances us from one another and could use some pointers from the Filipino and Ethiopian cultures and families described in this book. It brought to mind Julia Cameron's comment in The Right to Write that "So much of the loneliness of modern life comes because we no longer witness each other." 

I was especially struck by Gibb's description of suffering through illness while she lived in Ethiopia. "I was sick for a week and a half as the lithium left my system. I wanted to lie in the dark with a sheet over my head, sleep in silence, daydream, but this was not the Harari way. To be alone is to invite evil spirits, so the women in the neighbourhood kept me company, sitting around my prostrate body, singing songs together, weaving baskets, burning incense, sorting through grains. A tiny girl from the neighbourhood, a girl they called Biscutti, crawled over me, tickled me, hid under the sheet." (p. 40) Such a striking difference from our experience of illness in Canada. 

This is a daring and well-written book. I wish Gibb a bright and family-filled future.

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