by Alicia Costa
“It is possible to love men without rage. There are thousands of ways to love men.” – Lidia Yuknavitch
I don’t often read memoirs. For the most part I find them self-indulgent and extremely hard to connect with. But, when a writer friend of mine highly recommended Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir Chronology of Water I decided to do give it try. And I am extremely grateful I did.
If you read other reviews of this book you will be hard pressed to find a common experience. Most of the reviews are of scattered opinions but it becomes clear this book amazed and inspired a wide range of readers. I am not exception to this as Yuknavitch’s book blew my mind wide open and pushed me into places of myself I have long been avoiding. I didn’t even want to write this review as I greedily wanted to keep this book and the experience it gave me all to myself.
On the surface I didn’t anticipate I would fall in love with this book as much as I did. I was skeptical I’d connect with Yuknavitch, a former almost pro-swimmer- sexual abuse survivor- turned addict- turned academic- turned mother. She rubs you emotionally raw with her relationships with the women in her family. And whether she intended to or not she challenges you to reflect on yourself.
The book is written as Yuknavitch remembers her past as many of us do: in fragmented memories. The only chronology is the connection to the way water comforted and carried her throughout her life. The result of this writing style is a rich and honest reflection on her experience. Yuknavitch has struggled and fought with herself in a way I can relate with. She doesn’t shy away from revealing the details of using alcohol and sex to self-medicate her pain from childhood sexual abuse endured at the hands of her father and the grief she felt after losing a daughter. She makes you uncomfortable and pushes the way you view your own body and sexuality.
“This is something I know: damaged women? We don’t think we deserve kindness. In fact, when kindness happens to us, we go a little berserk. It’s threatening. Deeply. Because if I have to admit how profoundly I need kindness? I have to admit that I hid the me who deserves it down in a sadness well.”
It’s hard to accurately review this book as it affects readers in different ways. What struck me the most was how desperately we as women (damaged or hurt or abused or otherwise) need to speak our experience with honesty. As I truly believe we can only learn to heal and to heal others by confronting our own lived realities, I will re-read this book several more times. Especially in times when I need inspiration to write or speak with conviction. I wish I could put a copy of it in the hands of all the amazing women I know who are healing.
(photo by Roger McLassus via Wikimedia Commons)