Last month I received with eager hands a book I had preordered by a lovely woman and fellow blogger [...] Liz Owen. "My (not so) Storybook Life" is part memoir, part fiction, part satire, and completely worth the $20 spent on it. Through it's hilarious and heart-wrenching pages, Liz introduces us to her slightly twisted mind, her completely twisted dog, and a beautiful, all-too-short friendship with an amazing young woman named Angela.
Each chapter begins with Liz's own inspired rewriting of our favorite stories. Anne and Gilbert, Rhett and Scarlett, Catherine and Heathcliff . . . no one is safe as Liz plunges the storybook characters that shaped her perceptions about life, love, and proper housing into the nitty gritty of real-life home ownership. Then she tells amusing and sometimes laugh-out-loud stories about her own experience as a newlywed first-time home (and schnauzer) buyer. And throughout the whole book we see the development of a strong friendship that only God could have orchestrated.
As I read, I marveled at the similarities between Liz and me. Roofing catastrophes, an unhealthy obsession with getting the right paint colors, husbands who sometimes talk in their sleep, a desire to write, and a love of literature that shaped our expectations of life to be perhaps just a smidge too high. And though the trajectory of the story moves ever closer to sadness as Liz deals with the impending loss of a dear friend to cancer, it does not get bogged down in sentimentality or emotional manipulation. In fact, the funniest chapter (at least, the one I laughed loudest at) is 12th of 14. I can't resist giving you a little taste of it here. The context is poor Liz finding out that her husband Matt does more than just talk in his sleep sometimes.
"My first encounter with "sleeping with the enemy" happened several months later. I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night, one eye wide and unblinking into the darkness of our bedroom. But after a few moments of complete confusion and disorientation, I realized my right eye was wide and unblinking because Matt was leaning over me, peeling my eyelid back with his finger, his other finger poking my eyeball like a demented ophthalmologist.
"I screamed. And then I punched him in the jaw."
This goes on for another page and other amusing nocturnal tortures follow. And Liz divulges them with a good dose of humor tempered with righteous indignation. But at the same time, this is the darkest chapter as well as we see Angela deteriorating and Liz questioning the meaning of all of it. It is the finest example of Liz's enviable ability to walk the fine line between comedy and tragedy. As our lives are made up of both, often occurring at nearly the same time, so Liz allows her own story to be a tense mingling of joy and sorrow.
Anyone who has a deep love for literature, who has had the horrifying thrill of buying a home, who has had a friendship that changed her life, who has lost someone to cancer, or who loves the memoir genre (as I do) would enjoy "My (not so) Storybook Life." I hope someday I randomly run into Liz. She is truly a wonderful writer and a sweet person.
Buy the book. Read her blog. You won't be disappointed.