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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
The Deptford Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Life on Mars
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The Family Under the Bridge
Natalie Savage Carlson

Life Inside

Life Inside - Mindy Lewis I had many mixed feelings about this book. I'm not much of a reader of "memoirs"; personally, I don't see the point to them. What is a memoir but an autobiography of a person no one knows? And it seems to me that if no one already knows your life story, then there is power in turning your life experiences into "fiction." The few memoirs I've read have had their highlights, but I've always been able to identify a fictional story of the same subject that resonated so much more with me.Here is a memoir by an author who seems quite talented. I think Mindy Lewis could write fiction. Her story all tied together, her prose was equally relevant and poetic. Sure you could say there is power in the fact that this story was the truth (or near truth), but isn't most fiction true, as well? Perhaps sometimes even more truthful than the "truth." And how much more of an audience would this memoir has received if it had been marketed as fiction?Perhaps these comments only pronounce by bias: I love fiction.Regardless of my prejudices, I thought Life Inside started out great. Lewis' story of being committed as a teenager to a New York psychiatric ward in the 1960s was interesting. The pace is perfect as she starts right in the action of being admitted against her will and fills in backstory as it is relevant. The horrors and loves of her stay shine through. The reader can easily fall in love with those Lewis loves, hate those whom Lewis hates, and feel ambivalent to everyone else. We really can see this ward, especially the people, through Lewis' eyes.This works well for more than a hundred pages. Then the pacing changes. It speeds up. Suddenly, everything is on fast forward. Months pass in the span of a few pages. The reader no longer has time to fall in love, she just wants to get out of this place. Although not as compelling, this section works well, as it is likely the way Lewis saw things. Just get me out of here.Unfortunately for the purposes of enjoying this book, she does get out. Much too early. Just a few pages after the half way mark, Lewis is released and the following half crams together the story of the next thirty-five years of her life. While these latter years have their engaging moments, they are few and far between. There were times when I wanted to be done with this book--throw it aside and say, I got all I could from this. Instead, I plodded forward. And I was glad I did. The ending ties everything up exceptionally well and was highly moving. Here again was Lewis showing off her story telling abilities.Overall, I enjoyed Life Inside. Lewis has creative talent and has a really fabulous story to tell. The one thing that really drags down this story is that middle section. From approximately pages 150 to 280, I really couldn't care enough to continue--the only reason I did is my stubbornness to complete the books I read. Other readers may not have the same drive.