Beth O'Leary's stories, The Flatshare, The Switch and The Road Trip, genuinely make my heart sing. Reading them is like sinking into a hot bath or holding a steaming cuppa (or any other cosy cliché): these books just warm my cockles.
A couple of months ago, I had a really nasty set of brain thoughts. They'd been keeping me company for a while, but really made a home for themselves during that time. Many others have experienced Bad Brain so the symptoms are very familiar: I struggled to get out of bed, I had trouble with basic tasks, I felt consistently sick and my self-worth plummeted. Basically, my thoughts were not my friends.
As a side effect of this, I totally lost interest in many things that I used to enjoy - including reading.
I needed a pretty great book to break through the reading slump, so I picked up The Flatshare again on impulse; I remembered really enjoying it a couple of years ago and thought a light story with hopeful characters and a sexy side-note of Leon might help me to get some mojo back. Or, failing that, it might provide a little quiet space for some calm.
The book delivered: I gobbled up those pages in just a couple of days. When the thoughts came back, I put some headphones on and listened to The Holiday soundtrack (because Hans Zimmer, of course) and re-immersed myself in the story. When I finished The Flatshare, I picked up The Switch. Away I went again, momentarily shielded from the sadness that seemed to surround me.
After that, I attended an online author talk given by Beth O'Leary, who was promoting her new book, The Road Trip. She called us from her lovely home in the UK and she seemed to glow. Proud and passionate about her work, she spoke about wanting to write stories that meant something to people, that could remind us of the world's potential to be beautiful. That people could be good, and that we are all capable of kindness, growth and healing. No matter what traumas we experience, we can overcome them and become whole again.
It was hecking beautiful stuff. Enough so that I came away from the meeting feeling lightened somehow, as if my small set of troubles had been acknowledged and a remedy had been provided in the form of a temporary literary escape.
So I'm writing this as a kind of book review, but mostly as an appreciation post for the good that books can do. If I can heal a little bit by tapping into a few minutes of lightness in a collection of pages, then maybe the world really can be amazing. No matter how bad things get, there's always a cup of tea and a book - you just have to trust that, eventually, you'll find the right one to get you out of the slump.
There are plenty of wonderful days and lovely books to come. These three are some of them.
A little note
This piece got a little real for a moment there - my troubles are very minimal compared to some, but one thing I learnt is that there are always people out there who care; they are ready and willing to listen. Get in touch with friends, family members or services if you need someone to talk to. It can really, really help.
Lifeline - 13 10 10
A wonderful service for anyone who needs immediate help, or just needs someone to chat to. Their staff are ready to answer the phone or answer messages online.
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
A wonderful non-for-profit that works to support people who are experiencing mental health troubles. They also have a messaging service if phone calls make you stressy (like me)!
Thanks a bunch for reading with me,