Review: Abandon Me by Melissa Febos

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 8.51.53 PMDo you ever just wonder if you’re enough?

Febos’s memoir Abandon Me strikes a chord, and not just for her language, stylistic approach, and content. Febos’s writing shows readers the unfiltered, completely honest story of herself. There are no sepia overlays or blurred green goggles needed; her story is raw, poetic, and life affirming. Abandonment is a deep-seated demon all must face, but in each of us, our own path, our own enoughness.

Through several essays and one lengthy memoir-novella, Febos delves into the abandonments of her life and the leavings that have made her.

Abandon Me is a must read memoir for 2017. I hold it up to Lindy West’s Shrill and Glennon Doyle Melton’s Carry On, Warrior and Love, Warrior, as personal, all-time favorites.

For more on Abandon Me, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (USA) in February 2017, continue. 

First, for those of you available, Melissa Febos will be at Prairie Lights Book Store in Iowa City, Iowa, this Thursday, March 23rd. For more information, visit their website.

Febos’s memoir delves into some heavy topics for those accustomed to light memoirs about growing up with puppies and playing make believe with pillow fights—you know the kind, those with goose feathers flying up and about like pretend snow. That being said, it’s not so heavy that you feel like you need a stiff drink afterwards. (Unless you were already drinking, in which case cheers!)

What I’m saying is, this is not a book for staunch Republicans. Or the closed-minded.

First and foremost, Febos has been abandoned several times: by her biological father, lovers (specifically one), and herself. Her memoir is about finding herself through a series of finding, well, everything else. What it is not is desperate, or dwelling. It is magical.

Abandon Me is a collection of six short essays and one long, several-chaptered essay on abandonment. Each essay takes on a different facet of Febos’s life, yet each one is relatable and poetic in the most nuanced and incredible ways. I lack the words and grace to parallel her prose, but I’ll offer a few quotes to speak for themselves.

Discussing her mother and step-father’s relationship, which ultimately ends in divorce, she says “The work of love is in building a shared story, and in letting the differences in perception rest easily aside one another. My parents couldn’t do it” (120). A shared narrative is something anyone can latch onto, regardless of the love he or she seeks.

Her final piece and the memoir’s namesake, “Abandon Me” is a testament to her long-term relationship with a a woman named Amaia. Initially Amaia was married to another woman and she lived cross-country in Arizona (Febos resides in Brooklyn). Their relationship, to say the least, was difficult from the start. Febos writes, “I already knew that Amaia was God’s storm, that every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray. But I did not know my own destiny yet, if submission meant marrying the monster, the person I became in love with her. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? the pastor implored us. Maybe he meant: stop fighting. It’s supposed to hurt. Grace is not sweet, and mercy is not getting what you want” (245). Their relationship was tumultuous, raw, and unparalleled in stature. If you’ve never had a love like that, this essay will confuse you. I mean that sincerely, not condescendingly, as almost every all-encompassing love story makes no sense to an outside observer. Fair warning.

My favorite quote of all is her final comment about finding oneself in the great abyss of abandonment. “Every lover is a destroyer,” she writes, “I had to be destroyed to become something else. To become more myself. But this freedom? It is worth it. It is worth everything. If this is what it means to be abandoned, then let me be left. Abandon me” (304). In the end, we all overcome our leavings if we have the strength to take the pain, learn the lesson, and do the rising.

This book is one of the few in my life that has made me feel absolutely OK with myself. I am not comparing myself to her, I am simply stating that I feel okay in the security Febos radiates with her self, her life, and her choices. She does not apologize for where she’s been, who she is, or what she’s learned. In that same regard, she is not enabling what she once was. Alleluia, we all need more of that.

Abandonment is the ultimate fear; if we are left, who will love (or [insert verb here]) us? No matter the action, the answer is always the same: you will.

I hold this book up as a must read for 2017. I put it on par with Wild by Cheryl Strayed among the others mentioned above. It is beautiful, all the way through.


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