You're Not You
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You're Not You

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  938 ratings  ·  196 reviews
College student Bec is dangerously adrift. Self-conscious and increasingly uncertain about her long-term plans, she’s studying a major that no longer interests her and is caught up in a bewildering affair with a married professor. In an impulsive attempt to redeem herself, she answers a want ad seeking a caregiver.


What she finds is a wealthy, cultivated woman in her midthi...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Melissa Crytzer Fry
Michelle Wildgen’s YOU’RE NOT YOU is the perfect book for readers who like to tackle novels with thought-provoking, grey-area topics. Warning: this is not a light read, as it addresses terminal, progressive illness and how the afflicted and the spouse must deal with the stark realities forced upon them. The author has created so much more than that, though – offering humor, strength and the power of choice to her strong female characters.

At the heart of this book is Bec, an ambivalent college wo...more
Lisa
I so desperately wanted to like this novel. The synopsis on the back hinted at a tragedy turned around through the beautiful exploration of the senses. That is certainly not what the story delivered. I expected Kate to be a better-developed character with a more profound lesson to teach. I admit that she did change Bec's life but no more than any other employer or boss. I also felt that Bec's attitude and behavior towards the end of the story (I won't give away too much information) was a bit an...more
Jen
Okay, I'm writing a more thorough review of this book b/c I did a little search on others' thoughts and actually found some people giving this book one star. That's just ridiculous. Maybe the subject matter isn't for everyone - it's about the relationship between a college student and the thirtysomething woman suffering from ALS that she cares for - but to imply in any way that this book is not extraordinarily crafted and beautifully written is just absurd. I read a LOT of books, and I'm not abo...more
Judy
It's rare for me to give a book five stars, but this one fully deserves every one. It was one of those books you wish wouldn't end.

Bec is a college student in Madison, Wisconsin -- disinterested and aimless. Bored with waitressing, she answers an ad for a caregiver, and is drawn into the life of Kate, a 30-something woman with ALS. Clumsy at first, she gradually begins to discover what she's good at, to get a sense of who she might be in the world. She starts to come into her own.

But the irony i...more
heather
Full disclosure: Michelle was my workshop leader at Tin House.

I loved this book. The writing is simultaneously spare and lush, something that I love but am not sure how one achieves this. I suppose it's word choice. I noted this in Michelle's essays on food that I had read previously, and this book also veers into fantastic images of farmers' markets and kitchens.

A short summary makes this book sound like "a Lifetime special movie" (as Michelle herself told me at one point). A college student be...more
Lori
This book was a break from my normal reading as of late. I had finished some heavier and creepier stuff and decided to fall into something a little less tense, something effortless.

This book fit the bill. I finished it over the course of one night and day. It so closely walks that chick-lit vs fiction line... But I feel its got more substance than your run of the mill chick-lit novels do.

The main character Bec is a going-nowhere, job-hopping, party girl in college, who is sleeping with a marri...more
Cheryl
Jul 25, 2007 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction
YOU'RE NOT YOU by Michelle Wildgen - St. Martin's Press - 0-312-35229-8 - 274pps - $23.95 (paperback due in August from Picador Press - 0-312-36952-2- $14.00)
Wildgen masters her first novel with the tightest story I've read in years. As strippingly honest as Ethan Hawke with the simple elegance of Kent Haruf and a touch of Jennifer Weiner's wit. No padding, no redundancies, just impeccably good writing with incredible insight into the life of a Lou Gehrig's victim. With respect and empathy, Wi...more
Anita
A honest read that will evoke complex feelings, pain, sadness and happiness. This is the story of a naive young caregiver and her patient, a strong independent woman with Lou Gehrig's disease. The relationship between these two women far outweighs any of the other relationships of the book. We see how the relationship grows. How the relationship helps Bec inadvertently find her calling in life and how the relationship allows Kate to have the courage and ability to stay true to her belief system...more
Ari
I admit I've never had much use for people who don't know what they want to do with their life and don't try to figure it out. I've never understood why people would study something they have no interest in as Bec is doing. But it's alright because a book doesn't need to have a likable main character to be quality fiction. Bec feels like a real person though, someone in one of your college classes or a friend of a friend. And her pain feels real although some issues of hers are never really expl...more
Sheri Arnold
This is the book that Lorrie Moore MEANT to write when she wrote A Gate at the Stairs. It is very much like Moore's book--a female college student unsure of where she's going in life, needing a job to get through school, ultimately taking a caretaking job for a couple, then becoming embroiled in their lives, and finally breaking away and learning something in the process. BUT, Wildgen somehow does it so much better. Do yourself a favor: skip A Gate at the Stairs, but read You're Not You.
Erin
Exquisite, through and through -- writing, voice, character arcs, all of it. So many times I would stop and think, "If only I could write like this." As an added bonus, it's set firmly in Madison and has a fair amount of good stuff for the foodie set as well. I love, love, loved this book.
Jessica
This book about a college student who cares for a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease is not altogether realistic, but is nonetheless very touching in parts. Given that this is Wildgen's first novel, I think she shows a lot of promise, but it's not fully realized here.
Julianne Angel
I really enjoyed this book. Makes one think about a whole other side of ALS. The outside caregiver. I lived their relationship and showed w caregiving is way more than a job. Sad but real. I thought it was a great read and would recommend it for sure
Antof9
Jan 28, 2009 Antof9 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bookczuk
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara
MY TAKE:
Sad, engrossing, vivid, sensual, exhilarating and beautiful. A beautifully written novel, smooth and frank – a complex story about honesty. “Honesty becomes their touchstone: they may find humor in the most devastating moments, but they won’t pretend to believe in silver linings that don’t exist.” The writing is deeply sensual, full of descriptions of smells, tastes and physical sensation, with the emphasis on cooking and eating – taking in to sustain and fulfill. “It was better to give...more
Beth
Bec, a college student, is adrift; she hates her marketing major and is a dead-end relationship with a married man. Impulsively she answers an ad to be a caregiver to Kate, a woman with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease.) Kate, who is married to Evan, is young (mid-thirties,) wealthy, cultured, and was an accomplished chef. She is also warm, caring and, in spite of her almost complete paralysis, maintains her zest for life (and a wonderfully dark sense of humor.).

Bec becomes part of Kate and Evan's fam...more
Katherine Marple
"You're Not You" was a very detailed, intricate story between a young, reckless 21-year old girl who falls into the role of caregiver to a 30-something woman who is dealing with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Bec, the college party girl, has a tangled life. She is no longer close to her parents (since she moved out to college), she is happily involved with a married college professor (luckily, not HERS), and doesn't mind working at a deadend waitressing job (she doesn't typically stay in one job fo...more
Jody  Julian
As you can see,I read this book long after it won a few awards for one of the best books of 2006. I picked it up expecting it to be an interesting character study yet it turned out to be much more than that. I admire the way Wildgen presents the reader with several controversial points yet doesn't preach or attempt to convert with her own opinions. We are left to decide what we feel is the right course. Not only that, each character was presented in all their humanness--flaws and all--with no a...more
Stephanie
When I ordered this book online, from a used bookstore, they sent me an autographed copy. Instead of being excited I immediately thought this must not be any good if they're just handing out books, with autographs, for $2.00. But I soon found out I couldn't be more wrong!

It must have been good coming into this with no expectations because I was completely blown away by this story. You have a college student who can do anything in life, if she just apply herself, meeting a woman who knows exactly...more
Tony Heyl
This story of a young college student becoming the caregiver for a person with ALS is smart and touching and a pretty decent representation of living with Lou Gehrig's Disease. Bec starts taking care of Kate, who has ALS, after responding to an ad. There she learns not only about the disease and seeing a person as more than just their illness, but also learns lessons for herself through the ups and downs of Kate's marriage to her husband Evan.

Bec grows up by learning what she can and cannot do,...more
Maudeen Wachsmith


When Bec, a 21-old Madison, Wisconsin college student decides to change her part-time job from bartending at a local greasy spoon restaurant she has no idea how much her life will change or how much her charge will influence her.

Sophisticated 36-year-old Kate Norris has had ALS aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease for two years. Happily married she to husband Evan, she is wheelchair-bound and literally unable to do anything for herself. Her speech is even getting so bad that...more
Michele
Caretaking and Cooking: Choices of a College Coed
This story drew me in at once because of the strong voice and the good writing. It clearly establishes a sense of time and place (modern day Madison, Wisconsin) and offers the "promise" of an intimate look at daily life during the last stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) from the perspective of a personal caregiver. While we learn to understand the struggles of the patient, Kate, this is more about the struggles of a college student known as "Bec...more
Gloria
21-year-old Bec is just drifting in her life as a college student until she takes a job as a caregiver for Kate who is suffering from ALS. The relationship that grows out of this helps her to sort through all her choices and to find focus. The glimpses into the daily life of an advanced ALS patient are well-depicted. We meet Kate who is making the most of what limited abilities she has left, and we meet her husband, her other caregivers, and her friends. We share the journey that Bec takes with...more
Ashley
I can usually take books about illness and disorders but for some reason this book was a bit too depressing for me. It wasn't even because of what was wrong with Kate it was more the attitude that Bec had towards it. After everything happened was it really necessary for Bec to take it as hard as she did? She didn't even work for Kate for a year and yet she was depressed about it for MONTHS. That was a little much for me. It's sad yeah but it's not like she didn't go in there knowing that more th...more
Kristin
This was a quick read and entertaining enough to get caught up in, to escape with.

The writing is typical (think Today Show Book Club)first person narrative, which somehow makes the story seem more like a morality play than a story. The narrator is thankfully smart for a 22-year-old; Wildgen at least is not patronizing and understands her college-student mind. However, the plot is terribly predictable, and the narrator makes revelations.

I prefer, as the reader, to find the revelations myself. I d...more
Carly
I picked up this book not knowing that the author was from Madison, and that the entire book is set in Madison and the UW-Madison campus. What a pleasant surprise, to intimately know the environment that a novel is set in. It made me feel closer to the text, that's for sure. This was a great read. The writing didn't blow me away with its depth or unique imagery. It was just solidly great. Well-written, great characterization and compelling.
Michele Host
After reading A Gate At The Stairs, which was set in a college town obviously modelled on Madison, it was very strange and serendipitous to start reading You're Not You, which is set in the real Madison, Bascom Hill and all. I don't konw how You're Not You made it on to my list, but I'm thrilled that it did. It's the college-girl-coming-of-age novel that Lorrie Moore should have wanted to write -- no crazy, timely terrorists or hipster lingo, just an original, thoughtful story of a student growi...more
Carla
Loved this book. Probably wouldn't have chosen to read it if I hadn't had such a strong recommendation from my sister. Very well written, especially considering the intense topic. I was afraid it might be emotionally difficult to read, but it turned out to be the opposite. Couldn't put it down. The characters seem so real. Looking forward to reading more from this author!
Laura
May 06, 2012 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Laura by: Bethh
Once I picked up You're Not You, I couldn't put it down. Once I finished it (16 hours later, and yes I did stop to sleep in the middle), I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Sometimes in a book or a story, one of the five senses predominates. The author includes a lot of visual metaphors, or talks a lot about sound. Here, it's touch, especially human touch. A hand on a shoulder, a kiss on the cheek, the feel of a another person's skin. Smell comes in too sometimes: the characteristic scent of a fri...more
Cheryl
At first I thought that Bec was an unrealistically aware protagonist, and then I started to think that she was someone who was just traveling down the river of life in a free fall. She could perceive what was happening in great detail, but she just kept going with the tide, with whichever current was the strongest. She rarely demonstrated fear -- even fear of things that she observed would/could harm her. She then seemed taken aback by the use and abuse, and at times, unprotected. This is a very...more
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Michelle Wildgen is a writer, editor, and teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to being an executive editor at the literary journal Tin House, Michelle is the author of the novels Bread and Butter: A Novel (forthcoming from Doubleday), But Not For Long and You’re Not You (both available in paperback from Picador), and the editor of an anthology, Food & Booze: A Tin House Literary Feast (...more
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