Notes to Self by Emilie Pine
In the first essay of this extraordinary debut collection, the author Emilie Pine, throws you head first into the harsh reality of dealing with an alcoholic parent.
“Caught between endless ultimatums (stop drinking) and radical acceptance (I love you no matter what) the person who loves the addict exhausts and renews their love on a daily basis.” “It took years of refusing him empathy before I realized that the only person I was hurting was myself.”
This first piece, Notes on Intemperance, is a painfully honest essay describing the despair, ugliness - and beauty - of a messy parent/child relationship, and conditioned as a reader to look for the happy ending, it is a surprise somehow to realize that there isn’t one. There isn’t a tragic ending either, it is just a sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes ok, always real ending. Just like life itself.
And that’s the common thread through all the essays. As different as the topics are (infertility, the consequences of parenting, the female body, a wild child life that would scare any parent, and how women are seen and see themselves in a professional environment) what they all have in common is a raw and radical honesty. They are beautifully written, and sometimes painful to read. It’s somehow a relief that it is a collection of short stories, so you can put it down for a couple of days to absorb what you read before going back for more.
At times, you feel like you are along for the ride as the author tries to figure out life’s ups and (frequent) downs, how to navigate them not just externally but more importantly internally.
“I could end the story there. I could say that education saved me, and in many ways that would be true. But it would only be part of the truth. Because there are things I’ve left out. And if I’m to tell it, then this is the part where the story turns, and where I find myself, again, asking why I’m telling it all. Let me pause, and just look out the window for a while. Let me stand up and walk away from the desk. Let me take a minute.”
The essays are intensely reflective, beautifully written and often make for difficult and raw reading. However, as personal as the writings are, they are also surprisingly universal and relevant. Emilie Pine has written a collection of essays that will leave most readers with plenty of food for thought.