My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The best books find you when you need them most. I believe this. Like love, like a loss, like God, like faith, a song, a coin. Things find you when you’re not looking for them.
I was not looking for this book. The last thing I needed at the advent of a new year which already looked like crap from the get-go (I was dumped, I didn’t get a good raise at work, my health is iffy, and my mental well-being is taking such a beating), I did NOT want to read some sanctimonious, OTT cheerful manual on how to fix my life. But this book found me and because I trust Mari, I opened it and fell into the well of her wonder. I have been following Mari Andrew on Instagram for a while now and am often struck by her light, sensitive, gentle-as-a-feather approach to self-realisation. She doesn’t even make it sound like work. Her benign illustrations and sweet-tempered words are moving in the most unobtrusive way. She leaves them around almost accidentally where you will find them perchance and it may make you pause and reflect and be grateful.
While the title suggests this may be some kind of awakening/ coming-of-adulthood sort of book, it’s really more than that. Am I There Yet? is a memoir of sorts, a manual for living, a nostalgic bullet journal. But it is also a bible for the lost, a compass for the lonely and looking, and an invitation to spend the night on a kindly stranger’s couch because you cannot bear the idea of being home by yourself. Benevolently illustrated and written with the greatest of kindness, it is Mari’s record of her travels, her heartbreaks, her introversion, her deference, her losses, her epiphanies, and her enormous capacity for forgiveness and love. In telling you about her own experiences, Mari unselfconsciously entreats you to show greater respect and care for yourself.
The book is ridiculously endearing. There is an abundance of affection spilling out of every page as if it were a real, living thing. You feel her with you as you read. I imagine her to be my quirky, shy, brilliant friend who speaks softly and laughs loudly. Who wears nutty spectacles and smells like a bakery. Mari appeared almost hologramesque to me through the reading of her book and I was so grateful for her presence. The book reminds you to be present and aware without having to ignore your feelings of pain that pull in different directions. She reminds you to listen, to be observant, to sit quietly, travel alone, and show up for others. It’s excellent advice. It’s all necessary, true, and authentic. And this is what has made this book so utterly special.
If there is someone you know who is going through a bit of a rough patch, this book is a gift that keeps giving. Return to it for that much-needed illumination on dark days spent hiding under the blanket. Remind yourself that you are not simply the sum of your problems. Or your flaws. This book found me when my days were caving in on me and it was a struggle to wake up and go to work. She reminds me that I have a responsibility to myself to honour and respect the work I do. So I listened and got out of bed. If a book can do this for you, you can call it your book, for it has found you.
If I ever met Mari, I would hug her and not be the first to let go. If you meet her first, pass on the message.