As a rule, I don’t like many memoirs. I couldn’t finish Eat, Pray, Love or The Liars’ Club or A Million Little Pieces (perhaps that last is for the best!). I prefer life stories told with some remove and perspective, something that few memoirists seem to be able to accomplish.
Memoirs about recovery are a dime a dozen, but Your Voice in My Head (Other Press), from novelist and journalist Emma Forrest, is different. While it does detail Forrest’s suicide attempts and other destructive behavior after she moved to New York from London in the early 2000s, it is mainly a tribute to the therapist of 8 years who got her through it all. Even as he listened to their troubles, Dr. R., unbeknownst to his patients, was struggling with lung cancer. When Forrest hears he has died, she is shocked at how strongly the news affects her. “After Dr. R. died, I called that answer phone that would not take messages, and called it again over and over, like opening and closing the fridge door in search of food that isn’t there. If I called enough times, he might be. I called until, one day, it was disconnected and there was nothing on the line but my own breath.”
Another thing that sets Your Voice in My Head apart from the average memoir is that it is both wryly funny and written with perspective. For such a slender book, it brings many personalities to life: in addition to Forrest herself, her (hilariously quirky) parents and her “gypsy boyfriend” (actor Colin Farrell) are drawn completely.
“You’re like Marilyn Monroe,” a friend tells her. Forrest is flattered until he elaborates: “You’re all velvet and velcro. Men want you because you’re sexy and broken and when it gets too tough they can say, ‘Hey! This toy is broken!’ and toss you aside without feeling bad.”
Insights like that—and the way that Forrest is truly able to make the reader see the world through the eyes of someone who is depressed—add up to make Your Voice in My Head a true touchstone for readers.
How do you feel about memoirs? Would you read this one?
Related content: read an excerpt of the book in the Guardian.