So-Called Normal: A Memoir of Family, Depression and Resilience

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So-Called Normal is a wonderful yet intense memoir of author Mark Henick’s struggle with mental health. Mark gives the reader his story from his point of view starting at a very young age. A young boy growing up in Canada, his parents are divorced and he has two older siblings: a sister and a brother. He tells the reader a little about the history of his parents’ families: the Costigans (his mother’s side) and the Henicks (his father’s side). After Henick’s parent’s divorce, his mother Brenda, a nurse, strikes up a relationship with a man named Gary. The family dynamic becomes even more complicated as Gary doesn’t treat Brenda or her children very well and always puts his children from his first family first. Because Mark is the “baby” of the family, he takes the brunt of the abuse from Gary who often tells him to “be a man.” The book delves into the extremely sensitive topics of mental health and suicide. The reader can feel the pain in Mark’s voice as he describes the helplessness he feels as he attempts suicide many times.

What I really appreciated about this account of the author’s life is that he does not sugar-coat anything. There is a violent scene in the book where a bully beats Mark up, and it is so graphic I could see it happening as I read the passage. My heart broke over and over again for this poor boy who is trying to find some sort of normalcy in his life in which there really is none. Everyone seems to betray him at a certain point, and he can trust no one. His insecurities grow and, although he has doctors and therapists, it still seems like no one is really listening to him. The stigma he talks about relating to mental health is still a big one in society today.

I found So-Called Normal to evoke so many feelings—feelings of hopelessness, sadness, excitement, and happiness all come together in Mark’s life. Going through Mark’s journey is both beautiful and heart-wrenching, and if it wasn’t self-written I would have been wondering if he had made it out alive. I feel that anyone could learn many lessons from reading this book, and perhaps it could help someone who is having the same feelings as Mark did growing up and even save a life. This book is brilliant, raw, and a must-read.

Reviewed By:

Author Mark Henick
Star Count /5
Format eBook
Page Count 304 pages
Publisher HarperCollins
Publish Date 2021-01-12
ISBN 9781443455039 Buy this Book
Issue November 2020
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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