Book Review: Memoir

A First For This Blog

Today I have decided to post a book review, which I wrote after reading a recently released memoir. The potent narrative moved me to delve deeper and I wanted to share this experience with you, so here we are…

Long Road To Dry River by Jennifer Severn

None of us can know where life’s journey will take us. We can see where we might be heading and even plan for a different route, but there is always the possibility a curveball will derail our expectations… sometimes there are several curveballs to field.

Jennifer Severn knows about curveballs. She has gathered the strength to meet them head-on and navigate through them, and the courage to make the most of the experience and learn the life lessons they lay bare before her.

Long Road To Dry River is her chronicle of this journey, told with the same daring honesty and heartfelt spirit she has mustered to traverse it.

‘Long Road’ gives a first impression of distance travelled, places lived or visited. There are many of these: a childhood in the idyllic surrounds of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, time spent at university and forging a career as a medical sales representative in Sydney, and living in Melbourne, India and Amsterdam.

The narrative tells of these places, yes, but the long road referred to in the title is so much more. There is the deeper story of the twists, turns and roadblocks encountered as the determined young woman charges forth from a disruptive and painful childhood to carve her place in the world.

Her urgent need for a different life gains momentum when a fortuitous meeting in a taxi catapults her onto the path of self-discovery, a decade earlier than most confront their demons from childhood. Thus, the upwardly-mobile corporate-attired Jennifer begins to share each day with her other self, Marga Sahi, the Rajneesh follower, living with her new partner in a shared household in Rose Bay, Sydney.

Her journey continues through life in ashrams, therapy sessions and structured groupwork, all the while confronting hurtful family behaviours and her own issues.

Just as she is taking control of her life and bursting into emotional freedom, she is broadsided by a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and also a legal battle of the calibre no one wants to have thrust upon them.

All that has come before is brought into perspective when the author moves past the hostility levelled at her during the legal process and the hurt it brought, settles near Dry River and moves into a fulfilling life despite living with MS.

Long Road To Dry River is beautifully written. There is a sense the author is speaking directly to the reader. She has skilfully interwoven threads of her life across several decades through Parts One, Two and Three of the narrative, without totally separating the three distinct time periods. The spiritual journey that is flagged in the first few pages is deconstructed, examined and restored to form a bridge connecting her urban beginnings and the ultimate feeling of truly belonging in her chosen small community.

Unflinchingly truthful, insightful, poignant and daring, this is a rare read. Although several clinical volumes are available on the subject of MS, there are few personal accounts of the wallop of the diagnosis, coming to terms with all that this means, and facing the challenges it presents. Such accounts by Australian authors are almost non-existent… only one other such memoir comes to mind.

Besides being an exploration and heartfelt sharing of the author’s experience, the work reviewed here is informative and will no doubt raise awareness of the symptoms, trials and management treatments available. The result will be increased community understanding.

Long Road To Dry River highlights universal themes. It will appeal to those who themselves have MS or a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with it, and anyone who has had life as they know it turned upside down by any chronic debilitating disorder/illness or other significant event that will have a negative impact on their future abilities.

Interest will also be stirred in those who recognise they are/may be from a dysfunctional family… are there any families that are not dysfunctional in one way or another? Anyone who seeks solace through personal development or spiritual awakening will find much between these pages to satisfy their thirst.

Long Road To Dry River is a gutsy, inspirational memoir that will surprise, shock and sometimes sadden any reader who accompanies the author through the pain, uncertainties and challenges of life both before and through the experience of her ultimate curveball – Multiple Sclerosis.

It is not surprising Long Road to Dry River was shortlisted for the Finch Prize for Memoir in 2018.

 

Jennifer Severn’s – Long Road To Dry River – is available via her website: www.jennifersevern.com.au

 

You can read my interview with Jennifer Severn Here

 

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