by Heather Sellers
Finished December 2, 2010
Synchronicity? Is that the word I should use for the experience of reading You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know right after reading Bitter in the Mouth? It's happened before - randomly choosing two books, one after the other, and finding a very commond thread between the two. I read The Secret Life of Bees and The Kitchen Madonna, both involving paintings of a Black Madonna.
I heard about this book on the radio in an interview with the author. It's a biography, but reads like a novel. Heather Sellers has a neurological condition called Prosopagnosia, or Face Blindness. In this memoir we learn how Heather struggles "to understand and love her unusual self and to understand and love her family." Those are the same words I used to describe Bitter in the Mouth.
Like Linda Hammerick in Bitter in the Mouth, Heather Sellers comes from a very disfunctional family. Unlike Linda, Heather doesn't fully realize what is making her feel so different from everyone else. The relationship between daughter and mother in each book is complex and has a lot to do with the way the young woman grows up. While Linda rejects her mother, Heather continues to defend her mother and to wonder what is wrong with herself.
Heather's mother is paranoid schizophrenic, something Heather doesn't understand until adulthood. Her father is a cross dresser and an alcoholic. She loves both her parents dearly in spite of the strange and sometimes awful life they've given her. She meets and marries Dave, a gun toting libertarian. Her friends tell her that he is the complete opposite of everything she believes in, but Dave understands her, is patient and loving. She wants so much to be a wife to Dave and a mother to his two boys, Dave Junior and Jacob.
It slowly dawns on Heather that her inability to recognize people is a problem in itself, not a symptom of mental illness or some sort of awful social awkwardness. She happens across a description of Face Blindness while reading psychology books in an attempt to understand her mother and it starts Heather on a process of healing. She cannot be cured of Face Blindness, but she can be healed from all of the old self doubt and the strange past that threatened to destroy her.
Bitter in the Mouth could share this book's subtitle (with a couple of changes): a
story of family,
Note: I just took a look at Heather Seller's blog and found out that she had been in Lexington in September for the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which was partially held at LPL. She was in my library! In one of her blog posts she says,
"Lexington is doing that art horse sculpture ting: Chicago did cows. Every store in town has a lifesize crazy-painted horse out front. There are horse statues every where. The giant clock in the library has horses lighting up, the effect of racing, for its second hand. My hotel room curtains, covered with jockeyed toile horses. Downtown, a paddock. Across the country side around the town like great green pillows, acres and acres of horse farms. But I didn't see a single horse. Not one actual real horse. 'There might be some llamas by the airport,' the woman in charge said. I thought, Your (sic) playing the llama card?"