Cass's Reviews > Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo
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's review
Jul 05, 2012

really liked it
Read from April 22 to July 05, 2012

I just finished this book, which I started on April 22 of this year. That’s a long time to spend reading a 216 page book, isn’t it? I thought I would review it, but in the moment, I have decided not to. I’m going to write something else instead, and what I am about to write is a direct effect of reading this book. In fact, I could hardly make myself finish it, because this idea gripped me with such compelling force that I had to keep drawing myself back to the page. And now I struggle to begin.

I have, several times over the past few years, struggled to write about my father. Part of the Mary Monologues was about him, and I have written a couple of poems about him, but I have never truly come to grips with him, his life, his death. I’ve felt the emotions and the turmoil, but I have not tried to organize that mishmash of confusion into a narrative that I could integrate into something useful, something I could process. Today, as I was finishing DeSalvo’s book, my mind continued to wander to the trunk in my room. Inside that trunk are photo albums. Several, I don’t remember how many. There are albums in there that hold pictures of my father, albums that my step-mother gave me not long after he died. I haven’t ever really studied them, and have looked at them only briefly since they came into my possession.

I think it may be because by not looking, I could choose to continue to not remember. We have discussed before, you and I, my faulty memory. But I know that my memory can be triggered by pictures. That in fact, if I want to remember something now, I stop and take a mental image of what is happening at this moment. It has, I think, been easier until now to think of him as someone who was never truly part of my life than to admit that I might have had, and then lost, something very precious. The truth is, I don’t know what I will find in those albums. I do know there are at least two images there that I can talk about, because I can see them just as clearly as if I had them in front of me.

Anyway, I had planned to write this summer, but I had no idea what about until today. I have a couple of collaborative projects going, but I’m also pretty sure that this will be the summer I pull all the writing I have already done about him together into one piece. And it will be the summer I pull those photographs from their acidic PVC albums and mount them on proper paper. It will be the summer I let myself tell me the story of My Daddy. There are parts that will be very ugly. Such is life. There is anger as well. But I hope I also find beauty and laughter. Mostly, I want something whole and something true. A piece that says: this is what happened when I was six, when I was seven, when I was 12, and when I was 43, 44, and 45.

I knew it would happen eventually, and I bought the scrapbook supplies last fall. I guess it’s time.
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Reading Progress

04/22/2012 page 22
04/26/2012 page 69
31.0% "Just finished the first part. More than ready to get into her ideas on process."
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-2 of 2) </span> <span class="smallText">(2 new)</span>

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message 1: by Dana (new) - added it

Dana I wish you all the best in your writing and healing journey. <3

message 2: by Cecilia (new) - added it

Cecilia Garrett I have had this book on my "book bag" list at the library for so long that I can't begin to tell you when I placed it there. Your comments about your father, and how something in this book have pushed you to look at your relationship with him have led me to decide that this is a book that I MUST READ now. My own father was 99% absent from my life. And I am writing in past tense as though he has died. He hasn't. But the pain of his absence and the repeated attempts to create even a friendship, adult to adult, to no avail have led me to treat him and the relationship we should (?)/could have developed as being dead and gone forever.

Although my desire to write is about my mother and my childhood in a squalor-filled, hoarded home, I believe that I will have to revisit the absent father issue. And admittedly, it's one that I wish I could simply "put to bed" already. Perhaps revisiting it again and writing through it will make it less difficult to address in the future.


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