Memoirs have been working for me lately, especially on audio. I recently read This Is Not A Pity Memoir by British screenwriter Abi Morgan. It’s about the period when her partner Jacob experienced encephalitis and a seven-month coma, then woke up and didn’t believe that she was who she said she was. He recognized and remembered his kids, his parents, his friends… just not her. This Is Not A Pity Memoir is a bracing, honest recounting of this disorienting, isolating and stressful time and how she got through it.
Why I picked it up: I can’t remember where I learned about This Is Not A Pity Memoir, but once I did I quickly added it to my library hold list.
Abi Morgan is a woman used to framing and communicating emotions through words, so it’s no surprise that her memoir is eloquent and gripping. She tells her story alternating through flashbacks to happier days with Jacob and her brutal present-day reality. Jacob was conscious and interactive for a few weeks before the coma, following the collapse from treatment for his MS, so the coma was an unexpected setback. When he emerged from it, however, Morgan’s life became even bleaker. Jacob’s mistrust of her, on top of his physical and cognitive challenges, just underscored the scope of the loss of her partner, her co-parent, her best friend.
This all sounds relentlessly sad and depressing, which of course it is. But as Morgan says in her title, she doesn’t want pity. Her memoir is suspenseful, funny at times, poignant and, ultimately, a great lesson about appreciating the moments you have and focusing on the positives in the people around you. Her priorities – in life, as a parent, as a partner – changed completely after Jacob’s coma, yet the book never devolves into treacle or platitudes. It’s just a well-written story of one woman’s journey through hell and how she emerged.
I listened to This Is Not A Pity Memoir on audio. It is narrated not by the author (like most memoirs) but by Fiona Button. I loved her precise, articulate delivery (and of course her British accent). Even though Morgan didn’t narrate the book, doing it on audio made the reading experience more intimate and personal. I highly recommend the audiobook.
This Is Not A Pity Memoir was the 43rd book of 2022 and satisfies the memoir category of the 2022 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.