Book Review: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig


ashley | This past summer, Veronica and I were invited to Christmas in July at Harper Collins, where we met Matt Haig. The event was for a Christmas book which we will be reviewing closer to the holidays, but during our conversation, I asked Matt that if, say, someone had never read one of his books, where would he suggest they start? Matt suggested I check out his novel Reasons to Stay Alive. So I did.

Before getting to the content of the book, I want to say I was struck by the structure. While it flows well and is easy to read, the chapters are short and choppy, almost jagged. They start and stop abruptly and are just sort of snippets of thoughts or times of Haig’s life. There are also a lot of lists or points about a certain thought. It’s all written well, but it’s certainly not the typical type of memoir-like reflective stories. Haig is straight to the point with an air of sarcasm and a blunt grasp of reality. People who are sensitive to heavy subject matter may find it a bit abrasive.

I, of course, loved it. I loved the content, something I can relate to. But I also loved that it wasn’t just the author rehashing his struggle with depression, but also explaining what depression is, giving us stats about how many people are depressed and laying out the chemical imbalances that are at fault. This is far more than a personal struggle, though it’s that too and Haig writes with such a familiarity that anyone can read this and feel like they are reading about themselves.

There’s just one chapter I want to point out, entitled White Space, where Haig talks about reading and how one reads to escape or to find themselves. Anyone who is a reader will resonate strongly with this chapter and the words, the way he describes that escape, is so beautiful. That’s how Haig writes throughout; he’s very frank about what he is saying, but how he phrases it is still so beautiful and really hits every spot right on.

This book about depression is the conversation about depression that people should be having, but aren’t. Instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet, it’s embracing it and sharing with readers that this is common. Anyone struggling with their own depression or anxiety would relate to this, would probably find comfort in this. It isn’t an answer, it doesn’t solve anything, but it proves that there are lots of people who feel this way, that it’s nothing to be ashamed of and you will get through it and there are reasons for you to stay alive.


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march 5, 2015