Thank you to Lana Grace Riva for gifting me a copy of The Existence of Amy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading The Existence of Amy. I’ve never read anything quite like it before. I read it very quickly over a couple of days, which tells me something. It’s not a perfect read, but it’s good enough that I kept reading.
This is clearly a very personal book, which gives insight into what it’s like to try and live ‘a normal life’ with OCD. Amy, on the surface of it, manages to live her life very normally. She has a job, she gets on with it and she has friends and colleagues who like her. However, it is very soon apparent that something isn’t quite right.
Amy is an interesting character. We’re told the story through her eyes. This gives us real insight into how she has to do things in order to live normally. She is at times incredibly frustrating. Her mental illness defines so much of her, that as a reader you want to hug her or shake her and say ‘It’s okay’. She has put limits around her life and simultaneously relies on, and tried to push away, those nearest to her.
Amy is extraordinarily lucky with some of the people she surrounds herself with. They really do save her and this was lovely to see. They are endlessly patient and endlessly try to rally her round – even to something as simple as after work drinks. I think this was valuable in showing the reader what is required to be friends with someone with such a debilitating mental health illness.
It isn’t a plot-heavy book. The focus is very much on Amy’s introspection rather than any huge plot development. This will tick some people’s boxes and not others. I found myself wishing a little more happened, or we got to see a bit more of Amy’s active recovery, but that’s a very minor comment.
Some of the characters could be a bit more fleshed out. They – including Amy – were a little dulled out. I wondered if this was intentional to reflect the state of mind of the protagonist, but it does make the novel feel a little superficial in parts. There are also some clunky phrases and rather a reliance on telling rather than showing. There were a few things skipped over entirely (again, this may have been to detail the way Amy’s mind works). The ending felt a little rushed in comparison to the rest of the book.
It does feel like a relatively truthful and informative account of going through like with OCD, and I think this is where sometimes it falls down a bit as a fiction book. Overall, I enjoyed The Existence of Amy – but I’m not sure it is one I would re-read.