“So Lucky” by Nicola Griffith

Cover of titular book; title and byline typography is depicted in light grey with flames; black backgroundBook: “So Lucky” by Nicola Griffith
Published by FSG Originals on 15th May, 2018
Genres: LGBT, Mystery
Format: e-ARC, 100 pages
Rating: 3/5⭐
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Mara Tagarelli is, professionally, the head of a multimillion-dollar AIDS foundation; personally, she is a committed martial artist. But her life has turned inside out like a sock. She can’t rely on family, her body is letting her down, and friends and colleagues are turning away—they treat her like a victim. She needs to break that narrative: build her own community, learn new strengths, and fight. But what do you do when you find out that the story you’ve been told, the story you’ve told yourself, is not true? How can you fight if you can’t trust your body? Who can you rely on if those around you don’t have your best interests at heart, and the systems designed to help do more harm than good? Mara makes a decision and acts, but her actions unleash monsters aimed squarely at the heart of her new community.

I’ve mixed feelings about So Lucky, so I’ll just get on with it.

What appealed to me most about So Lucky was that it was a story about multiple sclerosis. In elementary school, we were tested yearly for it, although it doesn’t make sense to me now, considering Mara is an adult when diagnosed, presumably older than myself.

It was difficult to read.

I have PTSD. I didn’t know reading a story about someone struggling with the depression side that comes with diagnoses, even though Mara has multiple sclerosis and I don’t, could be so emotionally and mentally difficult/draining/stressful. I had to step away, because for much of the story—that is, until the last few pages—Mara does nothing but victimize herself.

I mean, I get it? I think we all go through that stage at some point in our lives when something happens and it feels like we are incapable of X or Y or Z because the world tells us so. The world treats us as part of the “Other” category.

However, it’s one thing to go through it personally and a totally different one to relive it via reading a book. Had I known this book would have challenged my darker depressive episodes to return, I’d never have requested to read it (or read it, for that matter).

There is also descriptive abuse and murder events, which I don’t even read about autistics if I can help it. It hurts, and I’m a sponge. I can’t take it.

Regarding trigger warnings—I’m not asking for those. I do think that at some point, such content warnings take things too far. Having PTSD, even SMELLS trigger me. It’s something I have to learn to live with, because it’s out of my control. This is just one of those cases wherein the value of book reviews is high and mighty, because perhaps I can help someone in a similar boat as me make the decision of whether to read it.

How I related to Mara is complicated and messy.

The aftermath of a diagnosis aside, some things happened to Mara that I related to as an autistic and someone with allergies, and a plethora of mental health tidbits.

For one, I liked what happened between Mara and her neighbor, Josh, and his girlfriend, Honey Delicious (inside joke if you read it!). It’s a great “Do unto others and you’d have them do unto you”, so to speak. They have a lot of patience and are easygoing, it seems, and I like that—I like the development of the relationship and how it evolved after Mara’s epoch.

Sometimes, we just need people to fight for us.

Even if I remove my autism from this equation, I still relate the same way because I have Tourette Syndrome. Or maybe it’s my chronic pain. I’m still classified as “Other” in the eyes of many professionals—separated from their day-to-day, even if I’m not their patient, because something is affecting my process or my body is a medical anomaly that makes no sense, but they can’t even pinpoint the zebra so why even try?

So when a doctor finally fought for her, I felt the same relief as when a nurse practitioner—who I saw instead of a general practitioner (GP), because I was so OVER being prescribed things I was allergic to because the doctor was paid to promote it and got free samples—was perhaps the first doctor (second if you count my allergist) to take me seriously and treat me like a human being.

The first doctor to fight for me was my allergist, when my GP (who I stopped seeing after the nurse practitioner treated me so well, because my GP was the woman version of mansplaining) kept prescribing to me all kinds of inhalants I was allergic to despite my insisting that they gave me heart problems. I’d offered a record of this from my previous doctor’s office and said that albuterol was the only one I knew of that had ever worked, because it didn’t have lactose. My allergist nodded, delivered to me my daily immunotherapy, and left the room for about 15 minutes. She came back with prescription for an albuterol inhaler.

Sometimes we just need people to fight for us.

I say it twice because it’s that important.

Paranoia over being murdered

I really understood this one, too. Officials don’t listen to “Others” until the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. It’s a pain.

But forget officials—it seems more of pain when the people in my life don’t grasp how dangerous the world is to people who are not like everyone else. Disabled people are targets the more defenseless they are. Women are already targets just because they’re women.

Organizations ran by non-autistic people sympathize with the parents who murder their autistic children, no matter their age or abilities or “functioning”, and the media congratulates them for relieving the world of such a burden.

I would be lying if I said I never felt anxiety as I passed the autism “rescue” booths while at the food expos I attend. I’m going as a blogger. My blog is listed on the “Press” page for Dallas. A member associated with the organization could harass me and try to hurt me because I fought back. One did.

Fear plays a large part in the depressive state regarding a diagnosis, and the two feed off each other in a symbiotic relationship.

So while it felt annoying to read this bit on and on, I felt it was portrayed accurately. I was most concerned with/worried about the end result being along the lines of “it’s all in your head”, like these stories usually do.

This is not one of those stories.

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Jamie’s gravatar

Hmm this sounds like an interesting book. The victimization does sound like it can get tiring, it’s something I find exhausting in books too that cover PTSD, especially fictional ones where the author clearly doesn’t understand the complexity of the disorder. It’s good that you could find some parts relatable, and it’s so true what you’ve said about doctors not fighting for patients. I had to go through several eye doctors and gynocologists that tried to push expensive surgeries or products were making me sick even after over a year of me telling them symptoms, then when the treatment is stopped suddenly all the symptoms go away (literally, bleeding, intense nausea and pain, etc.) It’s such a shame.

Also you are so right about being paranoid when you’re an ‘other’ in the eyes of the rest of society. I get a lot of mixed reactions when people find out about my anxiety disorder, and the history of how society has abused, neglected, sterilized, and murdered folks with any kind of disorder is staggering.

I might check this book out for the latter parts that you mentioned, but will go in expecting the triggers and main character’s pity party. Thanks for the review!

Also I nominated you for The Unique Blogger Award. Here’s the link for you so you can get the post details: https://limitless-blue.net/lastpage/the-unique-blogger-award/

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Jane’s gravatar

To clarify: It wasn’t about PTSD, but MS. It was just that the narrator, who is the main character, of the book detailing a lot of scenes triggered my own PTSD. There were mentions of PTSD, but it seemed more like the detailed scenes, despite PTSD being brought up a teeny bit in the book, were there for political purposes—to stress what life with MS is like. It felt really, like, social justice-y, too. I’m all about connecting with your community, but…I really couldn’t stand that part of the character. I understand the things that seem like conspiracy theories to people outside your community, but it seems that part of her just…like…remained. I don’t know.

This book left me with a bad taste in my mouth for multiple reasons, but parts of it are good regardless. If you ever get around to reading it, do let me know what you think!

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Jamie’s gravatar

Oh I probably worded my sentence incorrectly, I picked up from the review that it was about MS. I meant like, books that I read that cover PTSD tend to do the same thing and I find it frustrating. Shame that it left a bad taste in your mouth, I definitely will if I do though! Even not so good books are fun to discuss just to see others opinions. 🙂

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