Friday, March 21, 2014

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir
By Jessica Hendry Nelson

Are you a memoir junkie? Do you enjoy books in which the writer overcomes high levels of adversity? Do you enjoy reading about flawed and relatable people? If you answered yes to any of these questions than I would strongly recommend Jessica Hendry Nelson’s debut “If Only You People Could Follow Directions.”

Those aren’t the only things that make this such a great read. Addiction memoirs are popular with publishers these days. For every great addiction memoir like “Smashed” and “More, Now, Again” there are dozens that fall flat. What makes Nelson’s memoir stand out is her unique and engaging voice. She writes in a way that connects with the reader and makes it easy to empathize with her situation. This is also a great book for those that may not typically read non-fiction. Nelson’s writing style is such that it reads more like a novel and I found that I had to remind myself I was reading a piece of non-fiction.

Jessica, her brother Eric, and her mother Susan are the central figures of the book. Other people in her life drift in an out and impact her in different ways. The memoir follows Jessica as she grows up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and oftentimes absent father. Addiction, mental illness, codependency, and drifting apart as we grow up are themes that are touched on frequently. Her mother holds the family together but when Jessica goes off to college and her brother's choices lead to prison, she also starts to spiral into addiction. The book doesn't follow a typical chronological progression but is more of a collection of essays based on her experience and are neatly tied together. After reading the book it is clear that the title reflects on the feeling of powerlessness we sometimes have when it comes to stopping loved ones from making destructive choices. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!