The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
Published: 2015 by Vintage
Genre(s): Psychological Fiction, Postmodern
Never have I felt so terrible and sad for a character until Joy Stone (this name made her sadder cause can you imagine a stone having any expression? Especially a happy one?) came along.
The death of her lover, Michael, leaves her in shock and depressed, though what makes her situation more difficult is the fact that she is the mistress. Although her lover was going through the process of his divorce, it (if I remember correctly) wasn’t finalized and as a result, his wife has more rights to his belongings, etc. instead of her. The funeral made Joy realize how much of an outsider she is, and how easily the wife can erase/ban her from anything related to Michael. Moreover, because their relationship is an illicit one, Joy doesn’t exactly have the rights to openly mourn…In fact, she doesn’t have the rights to a lot of things relating to Michael. The only thing, aside from her memories of him, that she manages to keep is the project house they lived/she lives in.
What makes Joy’s pain, depression, grief and self-hatred more prominent is the way Galloway wrote this book. The fracturing of Joy’s mind is reflected by the fracturing of the narrative, while the deterioration of her house is mirrored by the deterioration of Joy’s body. There are also a number of subtle shifts in the text, so keen attention is required but when those shifts are realized, it makes the book all the more brilliant. For example, the part where Joy visits Doctor Three near the end of the book. The name of the character changes from ‘Me’ to ‘Patient’, and in one perspective, this can be seen as Joy distancing herself from reality. In another perspective, the dialogue beginning from ‘patient’ may be a fabrication a play in which Joy acts in and contain few truths.
The only downside to this book is a point near the ending. While I’m very happy that Joy gradually learns that she has to start forgiving and understanding herself first, the move from her being confused and merely going with the flow in the psychiatric hospital, to her own firm resolution to get better felt too fast. Even with the earlier hints and all that, it still felt too fast.
Although many readers I know shy away from postmodern literature due to the amount of effort and patience it takes to read and properly understand, The Trick is to Keep Breathing is perhaps one of the easier ones so I highly recommend it to anyone interested in trying postmodern literature.