Welcome to my newest venture into the writing culture. I’ve never written a formal book review, aside from my plagiarized reports about The Baby-Sitters Club and The Boxcar Children many, many years ago. Recently I was indirectly approached about the idea of writing a review for the first full-length book from author Andrew Miller, If Only The Names Were Changed. Never shy to try something new (totally kidding, I need to get back into my bubble immediately), I decided to give it a shot. So without further adieu, let me tell you all about it!
I went into this book with a completely open mind, not knowing what to expect. With the opening story taking place at the funeral of the author’s father, he grabbed my undivided attention from the onset. This book, or collection of personal essays, serves as a memoir of sorts for Andrew, and offers an honest and raw introspection into his being. It is truly an uncensored exploration deep into the mind and soul of the writer. Andrew gives the reader an uninhibited view into himself that pulls no punches – good, bad, or otherwise.
“It’s time to get f***ing weird.” This sentence appears more than once throughout this collection, and nicely sums up the blunt, graphic, and terrifying story-telling that Andrew offers up. His words are jarring, but unabashedly and refreshingly honest. I may not personally always agree with how he delivers some of his thoughts, but the sentiment of what he says is right on target. While his story-telling may be vulgar at times, I could not possibly agree more with and sympathize with his begging and pleading for the removal of social stigma from mental health disorders. Andrew also plainly lists and describes his aversion for authority and societal norms, all of which he begrudgingly executes to appear like a “good person.”
“Words make things real.” Given this recurring theme throughout the book, this collection is some of the most real story-telling a reader could ever expect. Based solely on his perceived oppressive upbringing (Andrew admits more than once that his perception may not always match reality, and he openly questions what is real and what is truth), this book undoubtedly serves as a therapeutic exercise to express long-held repressed emotions.
After reading this collection of essays from front to back, I’m still not convinced that Andrew is an asshole as he claims, but rather is someone who is simply trying his best to deal with complex, deep-seeded emotional issues. And for putting it all out there for display to the world, I applaud him.