She's Gone Country by Jane Porter
Shey Darcy, a 39-year-old former top model for Vogue and Sports Illustrated led a charmed life in New York City with a handsome photographer husband until the day he announced he'd fallen in love with someone else. Left to pick up the pieces of her once happy world, Shey decides to move back home to Texas with her three teenage sons. Life on the family ranch, however, brings with it a whole new host of dramas starting with differences of opinion with her staunch Southern Baptist mother, her
rugged but overprotective brothers, and daily battles with her three sons who are also struggling to find themselves. Add to the mix Shey's ex-crush, Dane Kelly, a national bullriding champ and she's got her hands full. It doesn't take long before Shey realizes that in order to reinvent herself, she must let go of an uncertain future and a broken past, to find happiness--and maybe love--in the present.
I loved this book! It was recommended by Tiffany at A Cozy Reader's Corner. The cover, the description, and her review had me put this book to the top of my TBR pile. I splurged on it today for the read-a-thon, and I bought it on my kindle. I have to say that it was worth it. I laughed, I almost cried, I smiled, and I believe I will think of these characters and this story for a long time after I shut off my kindle. It was a great story, and the author, Jane Porter, warmed my heart with her approach to the different topics in the novel.
Often times, I do not like books in first person. I get frustrated with the character that the story is told from; and most of the time, the character flaws get to me. However, Porter has accomplished the task of telling a story in first person. She brings you into the main character. And the way she writes of the feelings and emotions of Shey - I felt them. Even though I did not completely related to the main character, as we are very different, I felt her emotions. I was hanging on every word. The characters made me laugh, not at funny, funny jokes, but at the hilarious everyday occurrences of life. The puns and jokes were not forced, and the heavy topics were not dumped on the reader.
Ok, here's where the part rant, part ramble comes in. So if you want to by pass it, just stop reading now.
This book also includes heavy topics that I believe everyone should face. The main character's son, Bo, deals with depression, childhood bullying, and suicide. Porter adds a different aspect to the story in that Shey's brother committed suicide the year previously. Now, you are talking (or listening rather) to the person who can laugh at the self-help pamphlets and turns the channel when the commercial for antidepressants come on the tv. But, in a moment that is not public or that cannot be taken lightly, these issues should be taught to our kids and to many, many adults who do not understand the struggles of mental illness. I speak from personal experience (which is probably why laughing and turning the channels is a defense mechanism). As someone who struggled with major depression since I was 15, I can say that Porter handled the details perfectly. The mood swings, the hiding, the constant desire to sleep - she wrote a perfect picture of someone who is struggling with depression. She also writes about the struggle of the family and friends on how to deal with watching someone they love struggle so. I can't tell everyone the answers. I had a best friend in high school that tried it all, and she still struggles today. I mean, heck, I still have bad days sometimes. But, as an adult, I decided to no longer feel that way - and I tried counseling and medication and having a support system through my family, and from some combination, it helped.
Part of my struggle with depression was the shame that came with it. Though I have learned time and time again of the origins of depression, I still struggle with being ashamed. Then let me say this with all of my heart: DEPRESSION HAS ITS ROOTS IN BRAIN CHEMISTRY! Just like alcoholism, diabetes, and cancer, we can't choose how gets depression. Just like I can't make it rain, I cannot change my depressed moods. Don't get me wrong, I have the things I can do to help myself. But that doesn't mean I can just stop it. I cannot flip a switch that says, "I will no longer be depressed." It doesn't work that way. I was told as a teenager that I could not be a Christian and be as depressed as I was. And that is NOT true. No one has the right to tell me what I know in my heart is true. And shame and guilt and hatred of oneself doesn't change anything. In fact, it can make things worse. But back to my original point: depression comes from chemical imbalances in the brain. Yes, I know that is a cliche saying that gets overused. But it's true. I work as nurse, and I can see the effects of brain chemistry and how medications can affect those chemicals. Not just antidepressants, but all kinds of medications. I see those effects everyday. I've seen someone completely sane hallucinate from an antibiotic. I've given a medication that in seconds made a blood pressure go from 74/13 to 113/33. So take it from someone who knows. It's founded in chemicals. That is not to say that the environment does not have a part. It's a balance between chemistry and environment (nature v. nurture).
When it comes to the environment, you should know that there are things that people can do to help depression. I'm not saying that it's all destiny and we can't help it. There are ways to help ourselves. But it's different for everyone. For me, it's not isolating myself. Calling my mom every couple of days to remind myself that there is someone that loves me, someone that cares where or not I live or die. It means getting involved, even if it's online with people who love books like I do. It means having a puppy that licks my face everyday and loves me unconditionally. It's journaling, so that I don't keep all of those emotions inside, but get them out. And it means remembering that I am loved by Someone, who not only loved me enough to die for me but continues to love me despite the mistakes I make every single day. These are the things that help me. And I have to make an active choice to do these things. I know that there are some people who can blame those who stay in depression. But sometimes we can't help. Sometimes we are not strong enough to help ourselves. Believe me, I've been there. I cried myself to sleep every night just praying that it would end. Thankfully, I had a family to help me out of that black hole. But once we are strong, it is up to us and those around us to remind us and help us make the choices that keep us from those dark holes. Because that's what depression is like: a vacuum. It's a dark, black hole that sucks everything from you.
I don't write this to feel your pity or sorrow. I have made choices in my life, and I am blessed to have a family that loves me despite my struggles. But Ms. Porter sort of inspired me. She wrote a wonderful novel that includes the topic of depression and suicide - though it was not so heavy, one can't stand to read it. And I wanted to reiterate the importance. I know what it's like. I struggled with it as a child. And believe me, it sucks. If you are a parent or friend, just know that even if we hate you, we'll thank you for helping someday. I was so mad when my mom read my email and found out some of those things I was trying so hard to hide. But I know now, as an adult, that I couldn't do it by myself. I needed those people around me to show me that I wasn't all flaws and worthlessness. I don't know what the answers are. I can only share my story and what it's like for me. But I thank Jane Porter for writing a novel that does not shy away from real life issues. I probably could write pages and pages more about this topic. But I believe I've said enough. You should read her book.
I wanted to share a quote from the novel because it's so classic of someone who's struggling, plus shows off Jane Porter's wonderful way of writing:
"I slow and then brake, pulling over onto the shoulder of the road. I leave the engine running so the heater stays on. 'I'm going to help you,' I tell him. 'We're going to fix this-'
'We'll get you help.'
'Take me to another counselor?'
'Yes. A good one. And maybe talking will be enough, or maybe the counselor will recommend something else. We'll figure it out. All I know for sure is that we're going to do whatever we have to do to make you feel better.'
He looks at me, and his dark blue eyes burn with a hell of his own. And I feel that hell, that fire, burn me. I reach out, touch his cheek. He flinches but doesn't pull away, and I trace the line of cheekbone to jaw. He's still baby-faced, still no beard despite his last growth spurt.
'Okay,' he answers. 'I'll go to counseling or take medicine or whatever I have to do, because I don't like feeling this way. It scares me.'
It scares me, too. But I keep that to myself."
~She's Gone Country
It's a great book. A good read, and not so heavy that you feel like you have to make yourself read it. So don't let me scare you away from it. It's funny - and you'll love it, or at least I did.