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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review: Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton (audio)

I heard great things about this book, both from reviews and from my friends. But the book wasn't for me.

From the start, I was not enamored of the narration, which was performed by the author. Her voice is very high-pitched and squeaky. It felt, at times, like it was being read by a twelve-year-old girl. But that's appropriate in a way, as I found Glennon to be rather naive and not fully mature.

She becomes bulimic at the age of ten and is hospitalized for it twice. She never discusses why or what her therapy in the hospitals discussed or how sh e's dealing with is going forward. When she starts drinking in college, in short order she is a raging alcoholic occasionally doing drugs. After college, as an elementary school teacher, she gets wasted every night and spends most of her next day at work, hungover. She starts dating a guy, Craig, and gets pregnant. She gets an abortion. She gets pregnant again. She decides this pregnancy is a message from God (but why is this one a message but the first one wasn't?)  and she and Craig get married and she has the baby and quits drinking cold turkey. They have two more kids, have a very conventional marriage, but almost no sex. Early on, Craig asks her to watch a porno and afterward, she insists not only on not watching any more, but that he gets rid of them all, and he never watches porn ever again.

Fast forward 10+ years and Glennon figures out Craig was watching porn on the family computer. Granted, the fact that their kids also use this computer is a big problem. However, she acts like he's committed murder (she also around now relapses with her bulimia, but doesn't tell Craig, and passes it off as no big deal when he finds out.) She then finds out he's been cheating on her for years, starting six months after their marriage, all one-night stands. She kicks him out.

Now, you might be thinking that's a reasonable reaction but she's very hypocritical in all this and she never acknowledges that her issues with sex, her refusal to deal with those issues, and her black-and-white one-sided declaration that he will Never Watch Porn while she also mostly refuses to have sex with him, might have been contributing factors. That's right, she isn't purely a victim here, but she is also somewhat to blame. No, I am not victim-blaming, I am acknowledging that in a relationship, when one puts up barriers, makes one-sided declarations about what the other person Can and Cannot Do, and refuses to get any help for one's mental issues, there will be consequences.

Eventually Glennon starts seeing a therapist and she does seem to address some of the problems (although nothing about what's at the root of all of them. She still seems to be just addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problems causing those symptoms). She finds a new church. (Caveat: while the book was a little churchy for my taste, I was just fine, until at the end she is just baffled to find that not all churches think the translation of Genesis is that God created Man and Helper. It never occurred to her to question that her sole purpose on earth is to Help Men. She has lived a rather unexamined life. Which is also rather odd for someone with a personal blog who has written now two memoirs, and appears to be a big fan of naval-gazing.)

I was glad at the end that she took on a little bit of the responsibility that I think she deserves for the problems in her marriage (don't get me wrong—Craig bears a huge burden of that too. But it sounds to me like it's pretty 50-50 whereas Glennon seems to think it's 90-10 Craig's fault.) Which was more than I thought she was going to pony up to halfway through the book. She never acknowledges that perhaps two kids who get pregnant accidentally (twice!) while perpetually drunk and don't even know each other for a year, isa bad recipe for marriage success. She doesn't acknowledge that she's made any mistakes. Except maybe trusting Craig. (And really, she set him up to fail, so that broken-trust is mostly on her.)

I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I know that finding out one's spouse cheated can't be at all easy. I know that raising kids is a hard thing to do. But I also know that pointing fingers while refusing to acknowledge her own failings and culpabilities is not a road to success. I know that their issues with communicating (Craig is a physical person and she is a mental/verbal), while a big part of their problem, is not their sole problem that will fix everything when it is fixed. I get to the end of this book, and I feel like I did in college after reading Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience." I don't believe the "Experience" poems show any experience at all. They went from saying everything is white to saying everything is black. Experience and maturity don't make you switch from thinking everything is good to everything is bad. True understand and maturity mean you understand life is all shades of gray. I think that Glennon and Craig are both, sadly, large children pretending at being adults, without doing the hard work and heavy lifting of truly figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and then doing the hard work of getting there. They think if they keep punching down the symptoms of their problems, like Whack-a-Mole, everything will work out fine and eventually all the moles will just go away. Life is not a carnival game and she's really going to have to figure out what is at the root of her terrible coping skills, her body issues, her inability to admit wrong, and what she is hiding from. If she doesn't, these problems are going to keep coming back, again and again. I don't have any problem with any one who has any mental health or coping issues. I do have a problem with denying they exist and refusing to get help. That said, it was a riveting story that I couldn't put down, even if partly that was because I was so infuriated with her. I know other readers love this book and will disagree, but this is my opinion.

I downloaded this eaudiobook from the library via Overdrive.

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