Room Empty by Sarah Mussi

Received from NetGalley for review.

I got about 170 pages into Room Empty before I realised the writing style was just leaving me cold, and a story about anorexia, addiction, child abuse, and suicide, should not leave someone without feeling. Although I genuinely feel for people who go through those terrible ordeals in real life, in this story I felt nothing – the writing is so disjointed and jumpy (which I’m sure has been done purposely to reflect Dani’s mindset) that I found I didn’t really care what happened to the characters and just wanted to get it out of the way so that I could move onto a different book. The premise of the book is fairly interesting, though, with Dani suddenly remembering parts of a horrific repressed childhood memory, and her rehab ‘buddy’ Fletcher becoming determined to solve the mystery of it.

Good stuff:
– Realistic depiction of addiction and mental illness. Even though I found the characters largely unlikeable I think Mussi did a good job in showing how illness and addiction can change a person – the patients appear selfish and uncaring but that can happen when you’re struggling against your own mind. I really didn’t like Dani but I can appreciate that she had lived a traumatic life and was incredibly damaged and ill; it’s not an excuse but it certainly helps you understand why she is so unpleasant.

Bad stuff:
– The writing. It’s not badly written, it’s just a style that didn’t work me this time. It is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, which I usually love, but I didn’t like being stuck in Dani’s head at all.
– It’s set in a rehab centre yet it seems that Dani needs to be in hospital; she’s dying rather than struggling and the centre seems to be doing very little to help other than ‘circle time’ group therapy. I’m not sure how realistic that is, having never been in any kind of rehabilitation centre, but I can’t imagine that somewhere like that would allow patients to die rather than trying to help them.
– A lot of the focus seems to be on Dani and Fletcher, and their developing relationship…and I just didn’t care. I wanted a focus on illness and addiction and the fight to overcome it, not a fleeting relationship between an anorexic and an addict.

Read: April 7th-10th 2017

2/5 stars

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