Ciara's Reviews > You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
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's review
Feb 03, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: autobio-memoir, read-in-2011
Read in January, 2011

i honestly didn't know how to rate this book. on a more charitable day, i might have given it a four. i have read heather's books about writing, & while they are practically identical to natalie goldberg's hippie-dippy new age school of writing instruction, they were okay. her writing style itself didn't really appeal to me, but i wouldn't say it's bad.

i kind of think her loosey-goosey free associative style worked better in this memoir than it does in her writing guides. but it still wasn't my fave. this book is billed as a memoir of a woman coming to terms with a diagnosis of face blindness. she has some kind of neurological malfunction that makes her unable to recognize faces--even those of her family & closest friends. she muddles along, recognizing people by their haircuts or clothing or mannerisms. it's an interesting condition & it seems like it would cause a lot of complications in a person's everyday life. somehow heather fails to realize she has any condition at all until she is nearly forty.

the gears for her diagnosis are set into motion when she brings her new boyfriend & his two tweenage sons to florida to meet her parents. the visits don't go well at all. her mother is obviously mentally ill & her father is a non-functioning alcoholic. somehow heather convinces herself that this will be a really fun trip for the boys & that she, her parents, her partner, & his sons will have a merry old time playing cards & eating dinner. when she sees her parents through the eyes of her partner & his kids, she realizes how wrong she is. then an ex-boyfriend at her high school reunion inquires after her paranoid schizophrenic mother & heather loses her shit.

i mean, seriously. it never occurred to her that her mother might be mentally ill? i started wondering that about my mom when i was like nine years old. & if anyone else ever suggested it to me, it was no reason to run screaming into the wilderness. sometimes people have mental health problems. it doesn't make them bad people. it doesn't make me a bad person if one of my parents happens to have mental health issues. think about all the people in the world that have mental health issues, & how many of those people have children. yeah, a parent being crazy can affect a child (it certainly affected me), but it's not a death sentence. jesus.

anyway, heather starts obsessively researching paranoid schizophrenia. & somehow this leads her to the idea of face blindness. she begins to wonder if her face blindness was caused by her mother's inability to bond with her as an infant. she is just speculating that her mother was unable to bond with her, based on the idea that many schizophrenic people find it difficult to look at people's faces--even the faces of children & babies. heather thinks maybe her mom didn't look at her, so her brain never developed the neurological routing necessary to identify faces. interesting theory, i guess? but she follows this up (over & over & over) with how she doesn't blame her mother for her face blindness. she thinks that maybe this is just a connection they have.

she goes to doctor after doctor, trying to pin down a diagnosis for herself, & all her doctors fucking suck & insist that she's fine. um, find a new doctor, one who is less likely to say, "i've never diagnosed this extremely rare condition before, so i'm not going to diagnose it in you." finally she learns about a harvard lab that specifically studies face blindness, & she goes there & gets a diagnosis. she also shares her schizophrenia-connection theories with them, but they are nonplussed.

& blah blah blah, right? this book reads like someone just got a diagnosis of some extremely weird & rare condition & they are trying to make sense of it for themselves. which is to say, it reads like a diary, kind of. & that is really not that much fun to read. heather is also beginning to cope with the fact that she had a very dysfunctional upbringing. listen, sister. so did i. so did a lot of people. i'm not saying it's not worth talking about, but i am saying it's not that interesting. the people that can relate are like, "uh huh, right, me too, who cares," & the people that can't relate are like, "please, no one's family is this wackadoodle." it's kind of a lose/lose, unless you are doing it really well, which heather does not.
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05/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Judy (new)

Judy Mann I'm finding this book hideously irritating and frankly I don't know why that is. I can't even go over the plot without getting irritated.None of it holds together. It's like all the characters are there to serve the writer-which to me is a royal pain.J

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