Book Review: My Life in a Nutshell by Tanya J. Peterson

My Life in a Nutshell tells the story of a man named Brian Cunningham who suffers from social anxiety and personality disorder, and how he copes with these issues on a daily basis. The story is narrated on a first person basis, so we as readers get to be Brian himself as we go through the utter chaos that is his mind, and the clutter of thoughts that goes through his consciousness every second of every day.

Brian is wrapped up in his world, unable to take that step out, unable to do anything without feeling horribly anxious about the most terrible outcomes that could happen. He thinks so very little of himself; infact, he thinks nothing of himself. He undermines his intelligence, believes every move he makes, every act or action he takes is foolish and will surely come back to haunt him. He believes every person he meets thinks him utterly stupid and a complete idiot.

It takes three significant people to come into his life to help him take that little step away from his ever anxious bubble. Slowly, step by step, he begins to believe in his intelligence. Little by little, he starts to see he is actually valuable and cared for. He starts to feel emotions he didn't know existed in him, and with continuous effort, he slowly starts to have some confidence in himself.

Peterson dwells on the issue of social anxiety, personality disorders as well as depression, and makes us see and feel things exactly as they're seen and felt in the world of a mentally ill person. Peterson's style is quite direct, involving and engaging; it's like we're Brian, we can hear those thoughts in our heads just as he rapidly goes through each of them. We hear the echoes of his self-condemnations in our own minds, his extreme discomfort when he’s around people, and we feel such empathy towards him and towards people like him.

Peterson's message is loud and clear. Psychological imbalance exists and are serious concerns that shouldn't be taken lightly, and there are real people that suffer from them. However, it doesn't make these people any less of a human being than the rest of society. It doesn't mean they should be excused as crazy and thus be treated as invisible, abnormal, or strange. Mental illness is a serious issue, but not an incurable one, and definitely not an epidemic that should be sidestepped, shunned or be apprehensive of by the healthy majority simply because it's an abnormality. 

My Life in a Nutshell is riveting, gripping, and quite exceptional as it takes us on an extra-ordinarily emotional journey. It is an exceptional read indeed, and I highly recommend it to readers of any genre. 

GENRE: General Fiction
MATERIAL CONNECTION: Given to me by author