Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead. A fictional story that depicts the reality of mental illness behind a perception of normality.
I was given a copy of The Existence of Amy by author Lana Grace Riva in return for an honest review. My thanks go to Lana for the chance to read her novel and for sending my a physical paperback copy of the book.
The plot of The Existence of Amy follows the main character, Amy, through a relatively short period of time in her life in which a lot of life-changing events happen. The basic premise is how Amy deals and copes – or doesn’t – with these changes to her life. These events; going on a work-related trip to Australia, having a close friend move-away among other life-topic events would challenge most people. However, Amy has a significant disadvantage; her mental health. She suffers, severely, from OCD and it has an impact on her daily routine, let alone the much bigger tasks at hand.
I don’t know if author, Lana Grace Riva suffers from mental-health related issues herself, but after reading The Existence of Amy it wouldn’t surprise me. The narrative was so well researched that I found this book to be an absolute eye-opener into the world of mental-health related issues. Not once did I find myself thinking ‘That’s ridiculous’ which is something that I have most certainly though when reading other books in which a lead-character suffers from mental health issues. Everything, from Amy’s thoughts to her actions are credible in every way and made my feel really invested in her as a character. I felt for her plight in every way. While Amy is clearly suffering she doesn’t come across as desperately in need of someone to come and save her; she does need saving from her mental-health but she doesn’t whine, moan or belittle herself to get what she needs – not once did I get the impression that she was doing anything for motives other than suffering from her conditions and I found that element to the book really satisfying; hence why I think that Lana Grace Riva has done her research well with the topic she has chosen.
The plot goes at a rather slow pace but I enjoyed it for it’s narrative quality more than the pacing. We’re told everything that happens through the eyes of Amy, this is her narration of the events that impact her life and The Existence of Amy reads more akin to a personal diary. Again, I admired this choice of narration of the plot as it felt more personal, we really got to know Amy through what she told us. The ultimate goal of the book was posing the question ‘Will Amy find some solace in her life and be able to live with her condition?’ and I found myself captivated enough to find out the answer – I don’t like to brag about how quickly I finished a book as I feel it can be derogatory to other readers, but The Existence of Amy was a page-turner for me and I finished it in record time.
I believe that some other readers might struggle with the lack of defining plot – while I took particular delight in the singular point of view of view and the full-focus on the main character others might find it frivolous and a meandering journey that never quite gets anywhere.
The emphasis of The Existence of Amy is detailed in the large amount dedicated to Amy’s struggles with her OCD and other mental health issues that result from it; depression, anxiety and so on. That when things get so bad that help comes her way and she reluctantly accepts; her co-worker giving her little choice in the matter from an understandable view-point, it feels like the wrap-up ending is a little lacklustre compared to the rest. I really wanted to see Amy get better and her life improve and sadly I found that the ending snuck up on me a little too quickly. Having said that, I’d like to believe that we’ve been shown a small snippet of Amys life and that we left her at the point where her life can continue from a much better place – as I said, The Existence of Amy read like a diary and we’ve been allowed to witness Amys journey from a place of privilege.
A diary-like narrative detailing the struggles of OCD and mental-health in a well researched manner. A quick, easy to read book that I found captivating and extremely sympathetically written.