I’m delinquent in this mention. I’m delinquent in most things these days but that’s another story. This isn’t about me.
Back in August, I purchased the e-book of my friend Jane Devin – a memoir titled Elephant Girl.
I was introduced to Jane’s blog by a friend and easily became entranced by the way she wrote. Lyrical, gorgeous, emotional and heartbreaking. Thoughtful…thought-provoking. Over several months, we became online friends via Twitter and Facebook and would have good discussions about beauty and life’s purpose. I was excited as I followed her progress through writing and self-publishing her memoir. I didn’t know exactly what was coming but I knew it would be beautifully written. I was not disappointed.
I’ve been lucky, I thought to myself again and again as I read this book. I’ve been lucky to have a family to love me, a community that supported me and friends that listened and judged very little. I’m very lucky because this book was a heavy reminder that not all people are afforded such luxuries. Some people don’t have loving parents and are failed by their community again and again and again.
Elephant Girl is about one woman’s struggle in a world often dominated by the idea that women are meant to be small and quiet, where strength of character is seen as a flaw, fighting back means you get hit harder and love is not offered easily, if at all. But Elephant Girl isn’t just a story about a hard life, bad luck, unfortunate circumstances and cruel treatment at the hands of strangers and family. It isn’t just the story of one person, but about each of us together – about the challenges we face in growing up. Not becoming an adult, but that constant, life-long growing up that is oftentimes confusing, painful and overwhelmingly difficult. There is no manual and there is no how-to. We’re just out here, walking a path, sometimes struggling to make it one step further, sometimes bounding along, sometimes alone and later, crowded by others. It’s about how we’re all here, trying our best, and succeeding and failing all at the same time.
Elephant Girl is as much a memoir as it is a conversation about what it means to be human. Jane Devin shares one belief, one perspective, and offers a road-map of how she arrived at her own truth. She doesn’t force us to believe it ourselves, but offers herself up as an example. Here is one human life, precious and perfect even in its imperfections. It’s about how life can leave us feeling like there is no road left to travel, no more heart left to break, no more will to propel us forward and when we’re at the bottom of the deepest and darkest hole we have ever known, we can reach to a place deeper inside us than we knew existed and find a sliver of hope that compels us to grab on to the walls and start our climb again.
As I read Elephant Girl I found myself becoming overwhelmed with feelings of deep sadness. My heart ached for a little girl, a teenager and then a grown women, for society, for each of us. I was devastated that people could behave so cruelly toward another human being. It read like a tidal wave crashing again and again in the same place, and it left me wondering…how much is too much? How is this even possible that one person could survive all life’s cruelties and still have the strength to relive it?
I am still stunned that for as emotionally difficult and raw as this book is, it was a fast and fantastic read. I devoured the words at every spare moment – lunch breaks, stop lights, in waiting rooms and before bed. I cried myself to sleep several times because the sadness was palpable and overwhelming. When finished, I felt a sense of relief because a life so filled with moments of destruction and despair coupled with the beautiful and complicated love between a mother and daughter and moments of resurrection led Jane Devin, this beautiful Elephant Girl, to one of life’s simplest and greatest truths: we are who we are – and the relationships worth our energy and effort are with those who accept us just as we are, sharp bits and all. If I found one piece of my own truth in this book, it was just that.