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Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Atwood's book Cat's Eye does look daunting at first glance, and in a lot of ways it is. But it is well worth the read, especially if you are interested in a first hand perspective of the development of depression as a result of childhood trauma. Plus it is a fascinating, well-paced story that will keep you hooked until the very last page, regardless of its cold content.

Elaine grew up her whole life with her brother, migrating with the insects her father professionally studied, homeschooled by her parents, that is until her father lands a job in Toronto as a professor. For the first time ever -- in the midst of fifth grade -- young Elaine is thrown into girl world. She has to learn real fast who her friends and who are enemies are, but it isn't until adulthood that she learns too late.

Flashforwards to adult Elaine, the unusual "feminist" painter with severe depression and anxiety, returning to Toronto for an art show. She just wants to fly in, make an appearance, and fly out; the last thing she expects is for her blocked out memories of her best friend to break open.

The best moment of the book is during Elaine's childhood when she finally stands up for herself. It pains me to know that she was never going to escape the developing depression, but it was a moment where I felt like "Yes! You're breaking out of it!" As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety myself, I found that small victory inspired.

This work takes place and is written during a time when mental illness and the term "depression" were not common. And yet, Elaine's experiences and how they shape her adult self are spot on, textbook definition symptoms. It is an important addition to the canon of mental health narratives, and is a truly comprehensive understanding of the down human's state of mind. I'm not going to lie; this was a really emotionally difficult read for me personally, but it is so important and so well done that I feel that I've grown as a person having read it.

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