When Abby Sher was little, she had a habit of singing songs to herself in a particular way. She also had a habit of collecting certain bits of garbage that she saw in the street and kissing certain things just the right number of times. Most of all, Abby had a habit of praying and praying and praying.
In her memoir, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying (Among Other Things), Abby Sher recounts in detail her experience of growing up with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her story starts just before her father’s death, when Abby is on the brink of entering adolescence, unsure of anything around her. She finds peace and comfort in a few little rituals and habits that she’s picked up, like kissing and counting and praying. Before long, however, even Abby has to admit that there’s something strange about her behavior.
As Abby grows up, she faces the changes and traumas of life by adopting more and more rituals. Her faith in God and belief in the power of prayer takes on a frantic life of its own as Abby begins to feel more and more responsible for all of the events in her world. Her heartbreaking struggle to control and fix and save everyone and everything leads her down a rabbit hole of manic behaviors, until Abby finds herself trapped in an adulthood marked by compulsions, rituals, restrictions, and self-punishment.
This memoir is so wonderfully written that you can’t help but slip right into Abby’s world, even as she eventually faces an eating disorder and a compulsion to self-mutilate. It may be hard to understand how someone could end up as trapped in their own head as Abby did, but the author has spun such a compelling tale out of her micro-madness that I sat down and read this book from cover to cover in one sitting.
I’d strongly recommend Amen, Amen, Amen to anyone, even if the concept of obsessive-compulsive disorder is completely alien. I feel like this memoir offers and important, and rare, glimpse into this all-too-common condition and the lives of those who live with it or deal with it in other people. This was my first encounter with Abby Sher, but now I feel I know her so well that I can’t wait to encounter another of her books.
Carly lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite thing to do is to curl up by a window with a library book. When she isn’t reading, she’s usually writing on her blog at www.beingcarly.com.
This book was provided free of any obligation by Scribner. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.