CONTENT WARNING: This review is about a book that talks explicitly about suicide, mental illness and substance use.
Synopsis: I feel like I might be a terrible person to be laughing in these moments. But it turns out, I’m not alone.
In November of 2016, Liz Levine’s younger sister, Tamara, reached a breaking point after years of living with mental illness. In the dark hours before dawn, she sent a final message to her family then killed herself.
In Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End, Liz weaves the story of what happened to Tamara with another significant death—that of Liz’s childhood love, Judson, to cancer. She writes about her relationship with Judson, Tamara’s struggles, the conflicts that arise in a family of challenging personalities, and how death casts a long shadow. This memorable account of life and loss is haunting yet filled with dark humor—Tamara emails her family when Trump is elected to check if she’s imagining things again, Liz discovers a banana has been indicted as a whistleblower in an alleged family conspiracy, and a little niece declares Tamara’s funeral the “most fun ever!”
With honesty, Liz exposes the raw truths about grief and mourning that we often shy away from—and almost never share with others. And she reveals how, in the midst of death, life—with all its messy complications—must also be celebrated.
Thank you so much first and foremost to Simon & Schusters Canada for providing me with a copy of this book!
I think it’s really important that stories about mental health are told and that suicide is talked about. It is of course a very touchy subject, but the only way to truly reduce the stigma is I think to become more open to discussing it. And so much of this story does exactly that – working through tough emotions and trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Levine goes through the loss of both her sister and her best friend, and this book really shows how grief needs to be felt in whatever way works for you. It’s not a 5 step process, but rather one that we all need to figure out on our own. Levine does a really nice job of walking us through what she went through, how these deaths have changed her life in ways that you can’t even imagine, and how even the smallest things can really reawaken your grief.
I will admit though, I do have a few issues with the ways Levine talked about her sister. Undoubtedly there were disagreements and hurt feelings and pain I can’t even image between the two of them. But I also felt as though Tamara was often portrayed as the ‘crazy sister’ and that felt a little harsh to me. I know that everyone processes grief and experiences differently, but that aspect of the story kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Especially because putting people with mental illness into the box of being ‘crazy’ further divides people from the reality of mental illness, and makes it harder to get help.
Further more, I’m a little concerned with her description of her best friend, Judson’s, sexuality. She explicitly states that Judson is gay. Okay, I don’t know him, maybe he was. But she then goes on to talk about relationships that he had with women. And it unfortunately took on a bit of a bi-erasure tone. Sure, maybe he commonly used the phrase “God, I’m so gay”, which like I get it, I also use that phrase a lot of as a bisexual person. But to not clarify this just feels… a little icky to me. Don’t get me wrong, if he was gay then woohoo! But to be left feeling as though she just ignored that part of his identity, which could very easily be cleared up, just doesn’t sit well with me. And I know that I am not privy to a lot of their life. But as a bisexual woman, I’m tired of part of my identity being erased, and would just appreciate a little more respect for it.
Anyways, overall I did enjoy the book! I think that it provides a raw and real look into the impact that grief and loss can have on a person, and like I said, it’s really important to talk about this. Mental illness and grief need to be normalized so that people don’t feel afraid to reach out to others, and this book is making steps in the right direction.
That’s all for now ducks, see you soon!