Book Review: ‘Sick: A Memoir’ by Porochista Khakpour

‘Sick: A Memoir’ by Porochista Khakpour is unputdownable, but not in the usual ways. I wanted to read this book (and did so in less than 24 hours) because it’s strange. Why is this lady on the cover, with an oxygen tube (or a nasal cannula if you want to be specific) and pills of all sizes and colors? Why’s the book titled ‘Sick’ instead of something like ‘Road to Recovery’, ‘My Battle With Lyme’, or something along those lines? Sure, ‘Sick’ cuts right to it but it still makes you wonder why someone SO, apparently, ill would bother with writing a book and its accompanying strains on time and energy what with the editing, the promoting of the book, tours, etc?

sick by porochista khakpour

“I am a sick girl. I know sickness. I live with it. In some ways, I keep myself sick.”

And while reading the book, I’m thinking this lady is a real warrior. In her shoes, I might have taken the easy way out. Yes, really. After all those hospital visits, trips to meet “healers”, pills, therapies, broken relationships and more, wouldn’t it just be easier (so much easier) to end this life? After all, can you endure chronic insomnia, not knowing when you’ll faint again on the streets, or when you’ll vomit in public, or when there’ll be a relapse? I doubt I can. And having your parents tell you to please leave their home because they can’t live with a sick daughter anymore, and want their quiet lives back? That’s brutal.

If you’ve watched the video I’ve embedded above (if the link doesn’t work, just head to YouTube and search for “Porochista Khakpour with Eileen Myles: Sick | 6-5-2018 | NYPL Author Talks”), you’ll find that the author is a very intelligent individual with a great sense of humor. I’m already planning to read her two novels which were published before this memoir came out. 🙂 [*I love the way she handled that heckler of a woman in the audience, around the 42-minute mark of the video :D]

In this particular book, she mentions a lady who wanted the author’s help with her manuscript for a memoir. But Porochista read the lady’s manuscript and found that it was made up largely of fabrications. So she turned that lady down. I’d hazard a guess that much of this book, if not ALL of it, is true or what the author believes to be true. She’s so brutally honest that sometimes I find myself shaking my head in disbelief and disapproval as I read about how she purchased a CARTON of Marlboro Reds when she went to college and purposely got herself addicted to cigarettes (WHO DOES THAT?!), and how she was STILL smoking when she put together this memoir, as a “reward for some paragraphs or pages”. I have very little sympathy for sick people if they smoke while already ill. They have a right to smoke, for sure. But don’t expect any help or pity from me.

“Another part of it is the thrill of the sick person making herself sicker. If you know a part of you is always dying, taking charge of that dying has a feeling of empowerment. My body goes against me often, so what if I put it through that myself?”

A common theme in Porochista’s life has been that of ‘addiction’. Not just cigarettes, but also drugs. In her younger, and healthier, days, she took cocaine, ecstasy, etc. At some point, she even got sexually assaulted by two men after a drug-fuelled escapade. Later on, as many ill people are, she had a drug addiction because of the medications prescribed to her.

She has managed to present so many years, if not decades, of her life into this one book that has just 250 pages but will leave you thinking she has lived a full life. She has experimented with so much, lived in so many cities, had so many relationships (probably not a good thing) and now she’s a very successful author.

“At some point I questioned why I had for much of my life leaped from one person to another, with no end in sight. I’m not sure my conclusions are good, but I can tell you when the body feels out of place it will cling to anything that looks like life. Cities. Homes. People. Lovers.”

~

I’m not sure what you’ll take away from it.

At the end of the day, it leaves me thinking about wealth and of health. Would you want to be a writer who has gotten accolades from The Oprah Magazine, Buzzfeed, Cheryl Strayed, etc? Would you want to have to go through what Porochista did in order to get there? 😉 I’ve already read a couple of books recently which made me think that it’s such a privilege to be able to go to sleep at night with little trouble. So many people have to battle insomnia, and so many need pills in order to fall asleep and even if they do get some sleep, they don’t wake up feeling refreshed.

If anything, this book makes me feel even better about my own life, and reminds me of what I need to be thankful for. Sure, it’s probably not the author’s intent. She probably wants to raise awareness regarding Lyme disease, how flawed the medical system is because doctors don’t take young women’s complaints of being ill seriously enough thus leading to delayed detection of Lyme, and shining a spotlight on society’s attitudes towards those who are ill and not being productive, not working and not hustling.

Overall, it’s a great read. It shows you what war and revolution (the author’s family are refugees from Iran), and dysfunctional families can do to young people. And it might even get you alarmed at how a tick bite can lead to severe health consequences. Before this book, I didn’t even know there’s such a thing as Lyme disease!

Porochista currently has two fundraising campaigns going on at gofundme.com. If you are so inclined, go donate some money to help her fight Lyme disease.