Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn’t Stop Praying (Among Other Things) is Abby Sher’s thoughtful, funny, and often painful memoir documenting her life struggling with OCD since she was a young girl.
In her case, the disease creates the need for near constant prayer, the need to count every calorie and every step, and the need to self-cut and self-punch - among other things. It is a story about love, loss, a debilitating disorder, and the resolve to move forward.
A comedian and veteran of the renowned Second City improv troupe, Sher narrators her own difficult story with honesty, clarity, and respect.
Then she begins to pray. At first she repeats the few phrases she remembers from synagogue, but by the time she is in high school, Abby is spending hours locked in her closet urgently reciting a series of incantations and pleas. The prescribed patterns from which she cannot deviate become her shelter and her obsession.
In college, Abby is diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, and while it helps explain the counting and kissing and collecting, she resists rationalizing her deepest obsession, certain that her prayers are not an illness but the cure. Unable to confront the fears that drive her, she descends into darker compulsions, cutting and starving herself, measuring every calorie and each incision. But even in the darkest moments of her illness, there are glimmers of laughter and hope, for she carries the irrepressible spirit and passion that are so much a part of her family. Ultimately, it is another loss - the death of her mother - that compels Abby to redefine the terms of her illness and her faith, freeing her to live and love more fully.
Full of heartbreak, buoyant with humor, and marked by exceptionally vivid storytelling, Amen, Amen, Amen is a brilliant account of soul-searching, self-discovery, and the bounds and boundlessness of obsession and devotion.
©2009 Abby Sher; (P)2009 Tantor
This is an interesting concept for an audiobook production. A very realistic, non-polished interpretation. The narrator is the author, her voice sounds childish, and I had a difficult time relating. I wonder how this book would read if a more mainstream actor would do the narration. I could not get how this woman was so successful ion the stage, because by the sound of her voice you'd never think she'd make it past the middle school play. I kept thinking "oh, she's doing great, that's just the narrator" and then I would realize the narrator was Sher herself!
The content, however is stunning, a compelling insider's look into the psycho-pathology of a wide range of thought and mood disorders, as well as behavioral dysfunctions. However, Abby Sher has the advantage of substantial economic resources, and is from a culturally advantaged family and one wonders how a less financially endowed person with these challenges would fare in the current economic climate and job scarcity.
I would have given this book 5 stars but Sher's reading seems to stay in the "juvenile" registers, i.e. the reading sounds like "baby talk" a lot of the time, and with a lisp thrown in for good measure! She can't help the lisp, but the baby talk could have been dialed back. She also persists, throughout the book, in singing her favorite songs, which become endless, way beyond the requirements of giving texture and mood to the production. She even sings lengthy tunes purposely off pitch when imitating other characters. I guess, in a word, Abby Sher just seems odd, strange, and a few ants short of a picnic.
But still, this was an excellent read, and held my attention, even though I had to fast-forward through all the singing and all the obsessive-compulsive prayer.
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