I remember when I was little girl I had a close friend who had allergies. In those days, the word “allergic” was synonymous with “wuss”, or even worse. As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t make much of an effort to emphasize with, or even to understand, my poor allergic friend.
In her memoir Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl, Sandra Beasley chronicles her life as a person suffering from severe allergies trying to survive in a world with little to no understanding of just what allergies mean to those suffering from them. Readers get an inside view of the author’s struggles at birthday parties, weddings, restaurants, and even hotel lobbies as she tries to negotiate a decidedly hostile and unforgiving world. Just as my friend lived with the erroneous label of “wuss” throughout most of her life, Beasley was constantly judged, and sometimes discounted, because of her allergies.
To be honest, I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I found it tricky to relate to the overall topic, never having suffered from allergies myself. I also found it difficult to find any sense of camaraderie with the main character. Sure, she had a tough time dealing with major allergies, but it was hard to feel sorry for someone who was experiencing these difficulties during a wedding in Rome, Italy or on a family vacation to Hawaii. Maybe it was just sour grapes, but there were definitely moments when I felt that the author could have complained a little less and celebrated her amazing life and family a little more.
Yet despite these drawbacks, or maybe in some ways because of them, I actually did enjoy Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl. Beasley’s candid and matter-of-fact explanation of the challenges of living with allergies struck a chord with me on an emotional and intellectual level, and I found myself looking forward to reading each new chapter. The book contained just enough scientific explanations and facts to make me feel like I was learning something without boring me to tears, and I really enjoyed Beasley’s overall writing style.
For anyone who is touched by allergies on a personal level, Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl is a must-read. I am incredibly blessed to have an allergy-free life and family, but I still learned a lot from the book. For anyone like myself who is not directly affected by allergies, I would still recommend the book as a way to gain empathy for those who are, and as an overall good read.
Amanda is mommy, freelance writer, and blogger in her spare time. If you like this review, be sure to check out the blog at Giveaway Blogdom or take a minute to read her most recent article on Childhood Vaccinations.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.