I just finished a book that made my head explode. It. Was. So. Good…
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.
The premise: When Martha was 17, a bomb went off in her brain. For decades after, she suffers through bouts of depression or rage that can hit her at any time. She knows something is wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Still, her hilarious sister, Ingrid, and adoring husband, Patrick, stand by her. Until she turns 40 and blows everything up.
The novel was promoted in Australia as “humorous and heartwrenching, for those who loved Fleabag and Normal People” — it has a similar funny, dark, honest sensibility that makes you root for its complicated characters.
Here are a few excerpts, so you can get a sense. First, a bedtime routine with her husband:
Even when he put the journal away, he kept rubbing my back. Sometimes for the whole of Newsnight, sometimes after he would turn off the light. That was when I felt the most loved.
One night, I rolled over in the dark and asked if he had any feeling left in his thumb. I said, “How can you do that for so long?”
He said, “I’m hoping it turns sexual.”
I told him that was a shame. “I’m hoping it turns into me being asleep.”
Patrick said, “May the best man win.”
And an excerpt about her depression:
Patrick called, I cried on the phone. He said his plane was leaving in an hour, he would be back so soon.
I asked him to stay on the phone and talk to me and I could just listen. I told him I was very scared.
As someone who struggles with mental illness (of the anxiety/depression variety), I found myself nodding along to many insights. Sorrow and Bliss is now on my short list of favorite books (including Olive Kitteridge and An American Marriage). I’d be really curious to hear what you think.
(My only grumble is that the cover feels misleading. It makes it look lighter, maybe less literary. But don’t let it put you off!)
P.S. We’ve rounded up many of our recommended books here!
(Top photo by Marc Bordons/Stocksy.)