This is the semi-uncomfortable, semi-hilarious anatomy of an anxiety disorder as seen from the inside. Daniel Smith moves gracefully through his life story, all the while creating unforgettable profiles of his mother, an anxiety sufferer turned psychotherapist, his employer (The Atlantic), his therapist(s), and others. The sympathy we feel for him is akin to horror. As he learns to conquer this disabling problem, step by step, we rejoice.
This is one of those books, written with the most exquisitely expressive language, where you inhabit the universe of the characters who are portrayed, and it brings you to an understanding of a time and place and a south that has now changed forever. At moments, funny, with a tragic arc, it makes an indelible mark on you.
The Gathering, Enright’s Booker Prize winning book, will be my next read. I am a sudden and delighted discoverer of Enright’s gloriously poetic, understated prose. As we move back and forth in time inside the narrator’s mind, slowly emerges a portrait of a certain set of Irish people in boom time and in bust. The narrator remembers her first glimpse of the man who would be the love of her life, (at a party where everyone was part of a couple). IN a fragmentary way, we suffer through a parent’s dementia and early death, the way their respective marriages broke up, and running through the story, a portrait of a small girl who is different….as she writes in the beginning, “…the fact that a child was mixed up in it all made us feel that there was no going back; that it mattered. THe fact that a child was affected meant we had to face ourselves properly, we had to follow through.” It’s always good to reread the beginning after finishing a book, after making that journey. Did the author, in fact, succeed in doing what she set out to do? Did the players in this drama figure out how to become the adults, in this child’s life? Did the narrator remember, in the end, the child comes first?