|Girl in the Dark|
Title: Girl in the Dark
Author: Anna Lyndsey
Publication Date: 2/26/15
How I Found It: I can't remember
Date Completed: 7/12/16
Summary: Anna Lyndsey is a pseudonym. Whoever she is, the women behind this memoir will likely never read these words. She suffers - and I do think that's the appropriate verb - from photo-sensitive seborrhoeic dermatitus. In layman's terms, she has an intensive sensitivity to light. After exposure to her skin, she experiencing intense burning pain. Consequentially, she has lived much of the last decade in a completely blacked out room.
What I Thought: Ever feel badly about your life? Or wish for more? Or maybe think your days are unexciting? Reading Lyndsey's powerful memoir will quickly adjust your perspective. Suddenly, sunlight itself is a gift and a privilege. After all, Lyndsey lives without the freedom to view a sunset or go to the movie theatre or even flip on a light switch when she walks into a room.
In some ways, Lyndsey seems to be living in an alternate reality than the rest of us. Her daily routine is so far removed from most people's normal that it seems distant and exotic - not in a fun way, more like a sci-fi novel way. In the book, she explores the range of emotion that naturally arises in her scenario. She details complex Games to Play in the Dark that she has created to pass the time; she writes of despair and occasional suicidal thoughts; she shares her elation at the smallest success or hint of remission. Her emotions come across as raw, potent, and powerful. Their intensity makes the reading experience almost psychologically intoxicating.
My favorite part was her first experience with remission. It's so hopeful and new. There is, pun intended, light in Lyndsey's life again. Her descent back into sensitivity and symptoms felt like an especially hard blow after the hope of remission. I'm sure as a reader I'm only experiencing a fraction of how it actually was for Lyndsey.
I found Lyndsey's interactions with "normal" to be particularly interesting. Her wedding planning and also her fear of newly installed street lamps both felt simultaneously accessible and unbelievable.
I was very struck by Lyndsey's intelligence. Clearly, she's so smart. That felt especially heartbreaking in some ways. I'm sure she would love to be out in the world engaging in, excelling at, and achieving all sorts of things. She clearly has the mind to do any number of things - just not the physical body. How frustrating that must be! Her Games to Play in the Dark are so challenging. I am decently good at word puzzles and the like, but I would be intensely challenged by her games. Of course, you'd want to make your little games hard. Too easy and they wouldn't be serving their primary purpose: to distract from and dispense with the endless hours.
At the end of the book, Lyndsey includes a chart roughly demonstrating her levels of sensitivity over the years. The book itself is loose with timeline, relying instead of the ambiguity of endless darkness. To see the approximate timeline, however, suddenly really puts the whole story into perspective. Lyndsey has spent far more time completely contained in darkness in the last few years than the book really lets on. The patches of remissions can suddenly be seen only as pinpricks of hope in the midst of endless darkness. Once again, as I felt so many times throughout the book, my heart went out to Lyndsey and I appreciated her situation in a whole new light (no pun intended here).
I really recommend this book. Not only is it masterfully written (this woman who creates and plays such intense word games to pass the time unsurprisingly has a command of language few authors do), but it is moving. Lyndsey's situation is so rare and so removed from how most of us live our lives. It's a wonderful reminder to be grateful for even the smallest aspects of life.
Quote I Loved: Joy lurks in every mundane thing, just waiting to be found. Love is impervious to reason. And words are wonderful.
Will I Re-Read: Possibly
A Reduced Review: Light sensitivity keeps Anna Lyndsey imprisoned in a blacked-out room, away from the sun and most of the world. Her words, however, are a powerful and beautiful cry that reach beyond her dark walls.