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My Life in a Nutshell

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  68 ratings  ·  36 reviews
My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of one man's struggles with debilitating anxiety. Brian Cunningham has isolated himself to such a degree that his human contact is barely more than an hour a day. While lonely, he feels powerless to change his life. Unexpectedly, his safe little world is invaded by one Abigail Harris, a seven-year-old girl who, for the last five ...more
Paperback, 386 pages
Published June 1st 2014 by Inkwater Press (first published May 30th 2014)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  68 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Teressa Morris
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
How did Tanya J. Peterson know what is going on inside my head? Can she read my thoughts? ;-) Life in a Nutshell hit very close to home for me.

I have struggled with anxiety most of my life. Brian's attempts to deal with his anxiety, reminded me very much of my own issues. Here are some excerpts from the book, followed by my personal thoughts.

"I hurry to the door but stop myself before I throw it open. If someone's there, I'll get ambushed."

For many years, I was afraid to go outside by myself, e
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The human psyche is extremely fragile.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. It is written by a woman who has counselled, trained and been involved with others in the psychological pitfalls we humans face. This story is about a man in his thirties, Brian Cunningham, who can’t seem to get away from his mother who nags him all of the time, and is unable to step out and communicate with others without freezing up, is always full of anxiety and no matter how well anyone treats him, he
Sandra Stiles
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Love and kindness are two powerful tools when it comes to helping someone or overcoming issues of your own. The author has used those tools to show us two people struggling yet reaching out to each other. Brian has several issues that make it almost impossible for him to interact with people. Then he meets Abigail who has been in foster home after foster home. Now she lives with an aunt and uncle and must learn to trust and accept their love for her. She and Brian meet and click and through thei ...more
Jun 21, 2014 added it
*** I received a free ARC of this and my full review is at ***

I think maybe this synopsis might put some people off reading this book but don't let it - it's a great book and maybe the synopsis doesn't do it justice. But at the same time a synopsis that did would probably be full of spoilers and we can't have that. Just give it a try because it's worth it. Tanya Peterson does a brilliant job of taking a difficult subject and doing it justice without makin
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the story of a beautiful friendship and a careful clutch of people who make this possible. One of the nice things about this book is that all the secondary characters are very well thought-out. They’re each indispensible to the story. The Harrises, Brian’s colleague Roger, the principal of the school, Brian’s counsellor, and Abigail’s teachers. Each of the characters is heartwarming in their efforts to ensure that both flourish.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the First novel I read where I could relate to each and everyone of the characters. I have been Abigail, I have been Brian and Sammy. I've been all of them and it feels so good to read my feelings and emotions described so well. This book gives me hope and strength. It's the voice of everyone dealing with abuse and anxiety, the voice of those who think they don't have one. Thank you Tanya!
Bonnie Woodruff
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
I received this as an ARC in return for an honest review.
This is not my usual genre. I like to read romance, all types of romance. I must say that I was blown away by this story. I feel very connected with Brian and Abigail. I really feel the struggle and I can see the understanding. This is a very heart warming story. I would love to read more of their story.
J.B (Debbie)
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book! Review to follow soon!
Fiona Ingram
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My Life In a Nutshell by Tanya Peterson is a gem of a book. Brian Cunningham is a talented and clever man; in fact, he could have achieved anything in his life, but he has not. He is a prisoner of his mind, working as a school janitor and maintenance man, but taking intense pride in what he does. He fixes the school’s computers as well, so his talents have not gone entirely unnoticed. But Brian’s mental problems and anxieties are his downfall – he can’t get past the trauma in his head and, in a ...more
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
`Let's start small. In a nutshell, describe your life to me.'

Tanya J Peterson comes to her writing gifts both as one who has experienced mental health issues with a bipolar I disorder and as an educator and a counselor who is Nationally Certified and has devoted her life to aiding homeless, runaway adolescents and patients with mental health malfunctions, both in one-on-one situations and as a speaker and mental health writer. Where she excels is in her ability to place on the written page the p
Someone once said a good book is meant to make you laugh, cry and think. Now, if I were to judge the book that I am about to review from that point of view, I’d call it one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

Which is something that I can say about it without these criteria as well. I’m talking about MY LIFE IN A NUTSHELL, a beautiful, heartrending novel by Tanya J. Peterson.

The book tells the story of Brian Cunningham, a 37-year-old man working in the maintenance department of an elementary sc
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When a book about a man with anxiety disorders has you sobbing multiple times in just the first few pages, you know the author has managed to capture some essential truth of the human condition and the book is something special. My Life in a Nutshell by Tanya J. Peterson is very highly recommended; very emotional, but worth every tear.

Brian Cunningham is 37 years old and works as the night custodian and information technology specialist at Hayden Elementary School. After 18 years of working at t
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
At times I found this book difficult to read, and that’s not because it wasn’t written well; it was written beautifully, and the book made me really care for Brian and the struggles that he was having. I just found it hard – possibly even a little uncomfortable at times – to read all his thoughts, as this man has very low self-esteem and a huge anxiety problem. Having never experienced anything on this level, it really sort of opened my eyes to just how much of a struggle simple every day tasks ...more
Howard Franklin
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
While American society has progressed in facing and accepting mental illness, unfortunately, it is still not as recognized and accepted as physical diseases are. That is why novelist Tanya J. Peterson's work is so important, and why I so heartily recommend her novel, My Life in a Nutshell. Peterson is not only a very talented writer, but having suffered from mental illness herself, she brings a thorough understanding of the subject to her work. While innumerable non-fiction books on the subject ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Given To Me For An Honest Review

This book is an emotional, amusing and heart lifting one. It is a story of a gifted man and how in silence he lives his life despite his crippling anxiety and panic attacks. But there is a key for him that could help him to unlock this. It comes in the form of a small girl who lives in her own nightmare. But can the key fit so they both can live their lives free of their problems. This book is fantastic. It is one that you will read and not stop until the end. I g
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, blog-review
Last May, I read and reviewed Tanya J. Peterson’s LEAVE OF ABSENCE and it became one of my favorite reads of 2013. When Peterson asked if I’d review MY LIFE IN A NUTSHELL, I couldn’t say no because she has a talent for writing characters struggling with a mental illness and making the reader understand their inner turmoil.

We have good character development. Our main character is Brian Cunningham, a brilliant man who is a school janitor and suffers from anxiety. You’ll easily come to love him and
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This book was one of those chance findings when I was looking through the various selections offered at NetGalley. I don't know exactly what pulled me toward this book, but I was glad I ended up reading it. Maybe it was because I identified with the main character to a certain degree. Maybe it was because I wished to see someone triumph over adversity. Whatever the reason, I can say with certainty that I was definitely intrigued and couldn't wait to discover what awaited me between the book's co ...more
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tanya J. Peterson’s novel Leave of Absence is one I read in 2013 and one that made my list of favorites last year.

Peterson’s newest novel, My Life In A Nutshell is equally compelling, telling the story of Brian and Abigail. Brian is brilliant, but suffers from severe, crippling anxiety that causes him to dread contact with others. Moved from foster home to foster home, seven year old Abigail comes to live with her aunt and uncle. Through her school, she meets Brian, and he becomes one of the few
Anne Mackle
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Last year I reviewed Tanya's first novel Leave of Absence here and I have been waiting in anticipation for this second one.
I had a lazy day on Sunday and read this book in one sitting mainly because I couldn't put it down.
Brian has worked as a school caretaker for seventeen years, he starts work just as the school bell rings to mark the end of the day hoping he won't have to be in contact with many people.
I can't imagine how Brian has lived in the world for so long,a world that scares him to the
Erin Cataldi
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
It's hard to write about anxiety disorders and mental health in a novel and make it believable but Tanya J. Peterson has managed to do it... again. Her first novel, "Leave of Absence," dealt with the effects of grief and schizophrenia, "My Life in a Nutshell" deals with extreme anxiety. Peterson crafts together an emotional, gripping tale of severe debilitating anxiety that gets you so worked up and involved, that it's as if you are personally suffering through it. It's almost painful, but it's ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Originally posted on The Canon! {}

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the author. This in no way influenced my opinion or review. Promise!

Here's the thing about Peterson's work: her characters are key. Peterson isn't afraid to show the true side of human nature, to open doors that society has slammed closed, and examine what truly makes us tick.

I fell in love with her two main characters in My Life in a Nutshell. Brian, the narrator
Kevin Orth
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superbly written. The narrative character is precisely and deliberately caricaturistic. If you do not have generalized anxiety and want to see what it is like, read this book. If you have generalized anxiety, be prepared to see yourself in all too clear of a light. This is wonderfully, difficult to read. it is entirely obvious the author has had deep and profound experience with generalized anxiety and the 'killer' thoughts that come along with it. The narrator is the main character and we along ...more
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won this book from the goodreads giveaway from the publisher inkwater-press. I won it on July 28th and received it that next week. I was very interested in this book that after I read the description and was immediately drawn to it because of one of the main characters suffering from extreme anxiety. I too suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. I was thankful when I won the book. At first I had trouble getting into it, however when I started Chapter 4 I was hooked. There were so many things ...more
Bernadette Robinson
Thanks to NetGalley and the Publishers for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Brian Cunningham was an anxious man and at times he came across as socially inept in lots of situations. He was a loner and struggled dealing with others. Abigail Harris is a young child, who has been passed from one foster home to another during her short life. Abigail moves to the town that Brian lives in, to live with an Aunt and Uncle that she has never met before.

As Brian and Abigail's p
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My Life in a Nutshell is the story of two unlikely friends. Brian, a 37 year old custodian at a local school who suffers for anxiety and 7 year old Abigail, a foster child with abandonment issues. Somewhere along the way she has suffered abuse as well. In Brian she discovers someone she can finally trust and its mutual. Their platonic friendship brings out the best in each other and together they find ways to find a world that is safe.

Ms. Peterson uses her vast knowledge, education and experienc
Carmen Blankenship
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-releases
Wow, Wow, Wow. My Life in a Nutshell is one of those books that makes you feel like you were whisked away into someone else’s life only to return to your own when the final page has been read. Once you have finished it you take some time and ponder it and then you realize you have just read one of the books you have read in a very long time. Tanya J Peterson is ridiculously talented as a writing and at verbalizing human emotion and pain.

This story is about a man who struggles intensely with anx
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a child Brian was extremely sheltered by his mother to the point of it being unhealthy. So it's no surprise that as an adult Brain has isolated himself from the world - he is full of anxiety and avoids people as much as he can. He's constantly putting himself down and finding reasons why no one could ever like him.

His world is turned upside down when he finds seven-year-old Abigail hiding in the mechanical room at the school he works at as a night custodian. He notices scars on Abigail and kn
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I got this book for my review through Goodreads giveaway. I also read this book for the readathon-day 2015. I thought a long time about this book, whether I hated it, liked it, or loved it. There were a lot of times when I felt all three. However at the end of the day of readathon, i finished and came to the conclusion that I honestly didn't care for this book. After having a panic attack myself through the first 5 chapters like the main character, after that I felt his inner dialogue was annoyi ...more
Pauline Barclay
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Heart-rending, emotional, amusing and heart lifting. This is a beautiful story on how, in silence, a wonderfully gifted man lives his life despite crippling anxiety and panic attacks. There is a key that could help him unlock his mental turmoil. This key comes in the form of a seven year old girl who lives in her own nightmare, but does the key fit and if so can the lock be turned to help both of them? My Life in a Nutshell is truly beautiful. I could not put it down and although I know the time ...more
Renee Dussault Howell
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to receive a copy of this book from NetGalley.

Brian is a man who has suffered from anxiety most of his life and has problems interacting with people. Along comes a troubled little girl, Abigail, who attaches herself to Brian. Together, they learn to overcome obstacles and heal.

It has been a long time since I've read a book that made me feel the pain that the characters are feeling. This book brings so much awareness to mental health issues and the various struggles that a person
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Tanya J Peterson ...: When a loss deepens loneliness, can Brian recover? 3 3 Aug 14, 2016 03:18PM  

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With credentials as a Nationally Certified Counselor and personal experience with mental health care, novelist and columnist Tanya J. Peterson uses writing to increase understanding of and compassion for people living with mental illness. Her most recent work, Twenty-Four Shadows (Apprentice House, 2016) has received a Recommended rating by The US Review of Books. My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel (I ...more