I buy and read lots of books. So many, I deserve a bookaholic diagnosis.
But at first I had some reservations about getting a new book by Kelly Williams Brown, the Salem author who wrote Adulting (about becoming a grown-up) and Gracious (a modern etiquette book of sorts).
Even though I admired the writing Brown did when she was a Statesman Journal reporter, I figured that regarding Adulting, I was already so grown-up I have one foot in the grave, and regarding Gracious, I'm at the age when you just feel entitled to act however you damn well please -- because of that one foot in the grave thing.
Easy Crafts for the Insane, though, appealed to me instantly.
Not because I have even a slight interest in crafts. Because I have considerable experience with mental illness. (The book's subtitle is A Mostly Funny Memoir of Mental Illness and Making Things.)
Aside from being raised by an alcoholic mother who drove me crazy once I reached my teen years, and struggling with various anxieties for much of my life, I was diagnosed with a serious depression about four years ago.
However, you can be perfectly mentally healthy and still hugely enjoy Easy Crafts for the Insane, even if you couldn't care less about crafts.
Here's five reasons why.
(1) Brown is an amazing writer. There are many sentences in this book that I would die for, if I didn't already have one foot in the grave. (Have I mentioned that before?) Like, "After all, I was a 31-year-old crone wandering through the world, my very footsteps turning fertile soul to ash. My uterus, I assumed, had dried up like a tumbleweed and blown away; surely it was rolling through Montana by now." I'm so envious that she can toss out lines like that, because I could write for a million years and never say something so perfectly.
(2) Honesty bursts on every page. No doubt some of the stories in this book are embellished to some extent. Or, a large extent. Doesn't matter. What matters is that Brown unfailingly comes across as being honest about the ups and downs in her life that ended up with her being admitted to a mental hospital after attempting suicide. She has an amazing ability to see herself and others clearly, though for all of us, in retrospect most things look less murky than they did in real time.
(3) Great insights into women. I've been married for 49 years, which would qualify me for a Golden Anniversary soon aside from the minor detail of needing to combine years spent in two marriages (18 + 31). Even so, women are still a mystery to me. That's why I enjoyed the "girl talk" in the book as Brown describes her relationships with female friends. It was a treat to feel like an eavesdropper on what women talk about when men aren't around.
(4) Brown pulls no punches. Yes, she says that the names of people have been changed to protect the innocent. Along with the guilty. Yet I liked how she didn't change the names of two local hospitals. "So I will say this again, as everyone had always said it to me: If you are in Salem and you get injured, go to Silverton Hospital. The 30-minute drive is worth it!" Read the book and you'll learn why she had a good reason to say this.
(5) It's a book like no other. OK, I really am not qualified to make this claim, since I neither read memoirs, nor craft books. However, I'm confident that no one has written a book that simultaneously is... highly humorous, deeply moving, filled with step-by-step instructions to make various crafts, and carries the reader through the ups and downs of a woman's life in a gripping fashion.
During my morning reading time, usually I read from two or three books. But as soon as I started Easy Crafts for the Insane, this was the only book I wanted to read.
It was like Kelly Williams Brown opened up the top of her head and let me rummage through her mind, exploring the nooks and crannies of a creative psyche that was capable of great accomplishments and equally great downfalls.
This was a gift from Brown that I'm deeply grateful for. Her book has helped me to take my own troubles less seriously. Or at least, to be better able to smile some through my tears even if I'm not able to laugh them away.