When Nancy Tucker was nine years old, her class were asked to write down what they wanted most in their life. After thinking long and hard, without knowing quite why, she wrote 'I want to be thin'.
The book spans Nancy's life from her birth in December 1993 to the present day, documenting her growth, family life, schooling experiences, and influences from the outside world, each chapter represented by a colour which describes her life at that stage in time. Many of Nancy's experiences struck a chord with me as they brought me back to my own pre-teen and teenage life, difficult relationships with my father, being unable to fit in with peers, constant comparisons to others, and a deep rooted perfectionism which never seemed to let loose. Yet this piece is not conducted in a way in which every other eating disorder memoir seems to suggest - with the intention of triggering others. I have personally an interesting outlook on triggers in general, and what drove me to the book was Nancy's rather similar outlook that if you wished to use the novel as your eating disorder bible, then that is 100% your own decision. Yet, Nancy doesn't want you to. For it to serve as a guide to eating disorders is NOT the point here.This memoir contains no mentions of weight or calorie numbers and serves for a purpose to conveys nothing else but pure honesty of the life of the eating disorder sufferer, and beyond this.
This honesty is what made the hairs on my arms stand up and my body shiver, what struck a blow to my heart and what reminded me of the hundreds of thousands of other young people fighting this battle each and everyday. Nancy addresses the sides of the illness which many would be shamed to even admit to themselves, the real depths that one goes to further perpetuate their eating disorder. The way in which friends consequently become pushed to the side, studies become non-existent and living in your own home becomes a never-ending battlefield. What really happens to our bodies once we starve it of what it needs. How we really feel about the professionals that attempt to 'help' us, how we begin to view those around us as less inferior as long as we are succeeding in the one skill we believe we can ever truly be good at - losing weight. That it doesn't matter who or what sticks around, as long as your eating disorder, what Nancy refers to as 'The Voice', commits to a sort of friendship with you, a love-hate relationship which seems impossible to break free of.
The book is not simply just a story but also could be described as epistolary, told also through the use of scripts, hypothetical letters and lists, and diary entries. I personally found this such an original and interesting way of addressing the topic, ways I had never previously though of before. The capitalisation of professionals, friends, 'The Diet', and 'Loss of Control' (as examples) really helps to personify the illness and highlights how often it can felt like a real presence as opposed to just the imaginary. An an English student, I was drawn to the powerful metaphors within this book, so intelligently put together and thought out and through these the novel became more and more compelling as I kept reading.
The discussion of what Nancy refers to as The Time in Between brought a tear to my eye. The idea that recovery doesn't have an end point, a finish line. The road is long, and windy, and bumpy and complicated, it messes will you and convinces you of one feeling when you really feel another. A time where others assume that you are recovered, want you to be recovered when you're not, and you can't be because what is recovered? Not an end destination, that's for sure.
Nancy's story was heartbreaking, brutal, yet beautiful, lyrical and poignant. I'd be very surprised if anyone could pick this book up and not take its intended message away from it, its uniqueness captivating and overall eye-opening. I do hope that Nancy is unbelievably proud of her achievement through the publication of this book, as she deserves to 100%.
Please do pre-order a copy of The Time in Between from The Book Depository here: