Eric Lindstrom, A Tragic Kind of Wonderful, HarperCollins, 352 pp., Feb 2017, $19.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780008183011
Wow! Emotional, insightful, educational, tragic, wonderful, heavy, passionate…. There are not enough descriptors in the English language to perfectly capture the brilliance that is this book.
As much of an anomaly as the title suggests, this is the story of Mel Hannigan; a 16 year old, messy teenager. The trouble is, her kind of messy is bigger than most and she doesn’t want anyone to know. Even the people in the know don’t know the half of it! The complicated web Mel has woven in order to hide her multiple secrets, reassure her family and protect her friends leaves her exhausted and emotional – not ideal when you are suffering bi-polar disorder.
Author Eric Lindstrom is nothing short of genius. His writing of the self-talk of people with mental illness and detailing the nuances of how it affects every individual differently, shows empathy and understanding at a level we should all aspire to reach. His development of complex characters across a massive range of relationships works so smoothly because the characters themselves are beautifully developed and fully resolved from the outset. The web of secrets, lies and everyday occurrences that he has woven so perfectly around Mel’s life would leave a spider exhausted. And all of this in a perfectly logical, normal(ish) story of a teenager’s life.
This is one of those books that has the power to change your personal narrative, your perception of others, and your understanding of the human race in general. It is the perfect articulation of the saying “Be nice – so many people are fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Teen or adult – read this book. You’ll be glad you did.
Reviewed by Katie Bingham