Book Review – Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppleman, author of I Smile Back
By Katie Robinette, Executive Director, Healthy Minds Canada
I had a chance to meet Amy Koppleman when she was in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015 to promote her book-turned-film I Smile Back, a film about a character who struggles with mental illness and addiction.
Along with her Director and Screenwriter (Adam Salky and Paige Dylan respectively), Amy agreed to join us as a panelist at Healthy Minds Canada’s September Lunch & Learn to discuss mental illness and addictions in film – specifically the film I Smile Back. A video clip of her one-on-one interview is available on our website.
What I found with Laney Brooks, the lead character in I Smile Back, is that Amy masterfully created a character that had not just mental illness and addiction issues, but struggled with deep inner demons and had great difficulty in general coping with life on life terms.
The same holds true with Hesitation Wounds’ Dr. Susanna Seliger. Dr. Selinger is a fairly well known psychiatrist who specializes in treatment-resistant depression. At the same time, she struggles with her own ability (or inability) to discuss and explore her own feelings.
Amy takes the reader inside Dr. Selinger’s head as she begins to process death following the suicide of one of her long time patients. In doing so, Dr. Selinger begins, through a series of flashbacks/reflections, to process and come to terms with the death of her own brother.
Amy’s ability to take the reader into Dr. Selinger is head space is by far the best thing about this book. The subjects of death and loss are never easy ones, but Amy skillfully takes us on a journey of the mind.
Grief is different than depression (as Amy’s Laney in I Smile Back certainly coped with). Grief lessens with time. But both require coping skills to manage and, while Laney resorts to alcohol and drugs to cope, Dr. Selinger seems to have spent her life, up until the passing of her patient, using her patients’ problems to avoid dealing with her own grief.
It’s a good book. One that would serve as a great book club book as it is sure to stimulate discussion on how we all, as readers, have experienced death of a loved one. But what amazes me most is Amy’s uncanny ability to create characters such as I Smile Back’s Laney and Hesitation Wounds’ Dr. Selinger with such rich and deep internal struggles that even readers who may not have faced the same life challenges get a chance to experience them first hand – without having to live through the pain in real life.