I’m the Balloon: A review of Jacqueline Novak’s “How to Weep in Public: Feeble offerings on depression from one who knows”

Admittedly, I do have an issue with books where, if I can’t finish it one sitting, it’s probably going to take me a lot of time to finish it at all. Reading’s one of those things where I can focus my typically-multi-tracked-mind on a singular task and work it until completion. That’s where I am with Jacqueline Novak’s “How to Weep in Public: Feeble offerings on depression from one who knows.”

how to weep in public

It’s not that I don’t like the book; sometimes Novak’s voice in it does get to be “too much.” I could find myself nodding my head along and sometimes laughing with what she says, because I have suffered from mood disorders for a while and it’s true—once you’ve had it for a certain amount of time, you start trying to find any explanation for it, and you wonder if maybe it’s something that’s part of you. So there’s that, but at the same time, I wonder if it’s really worth wallowing in it. I don’t like self-help books for the same reason Novak doesn’t—they miss the point and often are not written by people who have depression themselves. At the same time, as much as it’s fun to dwell on our own shortcomings and make fun of them or make fun of the thing that’s eating us from the inside out (I think it’s called the laugh that consoles, or something), after a certain point I’m not sure what the point is.

Misery does love company, though, so maybe that’s it. I’m used to a brand of complaining about mental illness while at the same time trying to make fun of it—I can’t believe my brain is this garbage all the time—but while Novak is coping with depression and showing us that it’s okay to sit in the fetal position crying (if you have depression, it’s possible you’ve been there, or in a similar position), her tone is kind of hit-or-miss. This isn’t to say it isn’t genuine or sincere, but while there are funny moments where it’s like, “Yeah, I’ve felt this way before,” other times I felt like rolling my eyes.

The whole point in me picking out this book was because I wanted to feel like I had company, but the truth is maybe I didn’t need it, since a lot of my friends have depression or mental illnesses too, and a lot of them are, frankly, a lot closer to my lines of humor than Novak is. That’s not supposed to be a slight against her, and it’s not a bad book, but I didn’t finish it.

It’s also not necessarily the type of book that needs to be read all the way through in order for someone to get everything out of it, or at least, tries to be that kind of book, except for the fact that it tells the story or progression of depression in a linear fashion from infancy/childhood and onward, so that does beg for a straight read through as opposed to jumping around. It doesn’t let you do as much jumping around as I think it’s supposed to; ideally, I think you’d be able to pick up the book and start wherever, but that’s not really the case.

So I guess “How to Weep in Public” fell kind of flat for me—not unlike the balloon on the cover.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Author: jillboger

Part time writer. Editor-in-Chief for the Bridge volume 13, former EIC for The Odyssey at BSU. My glasses protect my secret identity.

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