Tag Archives: suicide

Review: Out of the Blue, by Jan Wong

Out of the Blue, by Jan WongOut of the Blue, by Jan Wong (Jan Wong, 2012)

This book’s subtitle says it all: “A memoir of workplace depression, recovery, redemption, and, yes, happiness.”

Jan Wong was an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, on staff at the Toronto Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest newspapers. She was tough, focused, and unstoppable. Until national backlash to one of her articles triggered death threats and caused the paper to withdraw its support (despite having approved the story in the first place).

I love the title of this book, with its double meaning. The crisis hit “out of the blue” but also the book is Ms. Wong’s story of coming through and out of the “blue” of depression. In the preface she says, “I want to tell you that there is day after night, and hope on the other side.” [p. 10]

Oddly enough, I heard about the book in a conversation about independently-published works. Since I’m now an indie author myself, I listened closer, only to recognize the author from her syndicated columns in my local newspaper. I like her columns, and her story caught my interest.

Out of the Blue is a transparent look back at one person’s major depressive episode. Jan Wong is a gifted writer, and the text flows like a novel except where she adds portions of relevant research. Those never feel like info dumps, but they do remind us we’re reading non-fiction. The author has reconstructed this period in her life from detailed notes and conversations with family and friends, and she offers the disclaimer that her perception of events may not have always been accurate. (For example, was the doctor’s receptionist shrill and impatient or merely efficient? Hypersensitivity affects the interpretation.)

Although every person’s experience with depression is different, I learned a lot from the information she shared. Perhaps my chief take-away was that talk therapy is at least as important as medication, and that the sooner a person can admit they need help, the sooner they can begin to heal. I was startled to learn that one reason we don’t hear more about workplace-induced stress and depression is that employer/employee settlements routinely involve a gag clause forbidding the employee to speak of what happened. Imagine what that does for your healing! Fortunately for us, Ms. Wong held her ground against that clause in her own settlement.

As a Christian, I didn’t necessarily embrace the evolutionary theories in the book, but overall it gave me a much better awareness of the effects of depression. It was also an interesting read, and I was glad to see a positive ending. Because I normally review faith-based writing, I do want to include a language warning. Chapter 3 begins with a burst of profanity. If that’s an issue for you, just skip the first few paragraphs. These words are snippets of quotes from the overwhelming amount of hate mail Ms. Wong received in response to her news article. Their inclusion is to give us a sense of her circumstances.

Canadian author Jan Wong teaches journalism in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and is a columnist for Toronto Life. For more about the author and her work, visit her website: janwong.ca. If you visit, take note of the image showing that Out of the Blue made the bestseller list (despite being independently published) of the very newspaper that failed to support her as an employee in distress.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: My Brother’s Keeper, by N. J. Lindquist

My Brother's Keeper, by NJ LindquistMy Brother’s Keeper, by N. J. Lindquist (That’s Life! Communications, revised edition, 2014 — formerly titled In Time of Trouble)

Shane Donahue is 18 years old and he hates his life. And his super-perfect twin brother, Scott. They’re identical twins, but they’ve turned into polar opposites. Scott excels at everything, while Shane… well he’s ordinary at best.

He’s been dumped from the basketball team, fired from his job, he’s failing at school, and even in the party crowd he can’t rise to the top. Oh, and his dad took his car away after the latest speeding ticket.

The characters are real, complex, and Shane will capture your heart in the opening pages even while you’ll be shaking your head at his attitude. His frustration, his sense of hopelessness to be good at anything, are feelings we know too well. He doesn’t really know who he is—just who he’s trying to project himself to be.

Favourite quote: Shane describes one of his friends, Ethan, as “kind of comfortable to be around. Like an old pair of sweat pants. He’s maybe the only person who’s never tried to change me.” [Kindle location 495]

As Shane’s world falls apart and his family life gets more turbulent, he figures he’s far enough gone that he might as well check out this God stuff Ethan’s been spouting. It’s either that or kill himself and get it over with.

Shane doesn’t expect what he hears to make so much sense, or to realize he wants God in his life. He also doesn’t expect life to then get harder! His father is more angry about God-talk than he was about Shane’s plummeting grades, and the party crowd is downright hostile about the change in him.

You don’t have to be an 18-year-old boy to appreciate My Brother’s Keeper. It’s for everyone who’s ever felt like a loser, ever felt too far gone to change, or ever felt too ordinary to be any use to God.

N.J. Lindquist is a Canadian author and speaker who has played key roles in The Word Guild and in the Hot Apple Cider anthologies. As well as writing YA fiction under her own name, she writes cozy mysteries as J.A. Menzies. For more about the author and her writing, visit her website: njlindquist.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Robin Williams and Suicide: 3 links and a song

On Saturday I finished reading Jan Wong‘s bestselling memoir, Out of the Blue, subtitled “A memoir of workplace depression, recover, redemption, and, yes, happiness.” The author didn’t attempt to take her own life, but in exploring depression and its effects the book does talk about suicide.

Monday evening we heard the news of Robin Williams’ death. I’m sad. Not from a sense of personal loss, but sad for a life tragically cut short. That’s a cliche, but you know what? A cliche is something that’s been over-used. Suicide happens too often. There’s too much pain.

I don’t know the reason Mr. Williams died, and it’s not my place to analyze. My heart breaks for the individuals holding this much pain and often wearing smiles to hide it–be they adult, teens or children.

On Tuesday, this was my prayer:

"Robin Williams. Christ, have mercy. Rest his soul. Hold his family. Thank You for his gifts. Let him 'fly, be free'."

Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have something to say about the news. Here are some posts that touched my heart–and a mainstream song that I hear echoing Jesus’ longing to reach the wounded.

At Steph’s Eclectic Interests, Steph Beth Nickel reminds us that while we can’t do anything about global or celebrity suffering, we can do something. See “What Can I Do?

At The Daily Dad, Thomas Froese shares what he’d like to say to Robin Williams: “Grieving Robin Williams. His Bus Goes Home.”

At A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp reveals “What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health.”

And for our song: Nickelback‘s Lullaby (Yes, this song has made me cry in public, and no, I don’t agree that suicide is “the easy way out.” Read Ann Voskamp’s post, if you didn’t already. Suicide happens when strong people, who have already fought longer and harder than outsiders know, succumb to the lie that this is their best option. We know who the Liar is, and he will get what’s coming to him.)