Publisher: Dead Ink Books
Publication date: 31st May 2019
Karen Havelin’s Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a life told in reverse and a subversion of what we expect from stories of illness.
Having been diagnosed with endometriosis in her twenties, we follow Laura Fjellstad in her struggle to live a normal life across New York, Paris and Oslo, fueled by her belief that to survive her chronic illness she must be completely self-reliant.Taken from the Please Read This Leaflet Carefully
Flowing backwards from 2016 to 1995, we meet Laura’s younger selves: her healthier selves. Laura as a daughter, a figure skater, a lover, and a mother—finally leading a life her own teenage self would be in awe of.
To be devoured intensely in one sitting, Please Read This Leaflet Carefully is a remarkable debut novel with bracing emotional insights and piercing descriptions of pain that linger in one’s mind long after the last page. It is also a beguiling meditation on relationships, motherhood, sexuality, pain and the limitations of our own bodies.
The best part of being a book blogger (for me, anyway) is discovering new publishers and new authors. When reading Karen Havelin’s Please Read This Leaflet Carefully, it was a first time experience of both, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was floored.
Please Read This Leaflet Carefully reads a bit like a memoir. As we move through Laura’s life, in reverse chronological order, we get a broad understanding of what her life was like at that point in time as well as specific incidents that became fundamental to her development as a person.
But, what I found most striking was Havelin’s ability to convey both the mental and physical challenges of chronic illness. I know absolutely nothing Havelin’s personal life; however, she is either a voice of experience or her research for this book was incredibly in-depth (this is not speculation, I am just trying to credit her wonderful writing).
I loved getting to understand Laura’s fierce, fundamental need to be independent but also to be cared for in a way that is loving and sympathetic. I keenly felt her frustration at being judged by her family for leaving her native home and her longing to move to a new place in the hope of a new start.
As someone who does not have a chronic illness but has suffered from dysmenorrhoea for over 20 years, I felt Laura’s frustration in getting people (friends, family, medical professionals alike) to take her seriously. How some people assume that because you leave the house, go to work, or even go to the shop for milk, that the pain can’t be that bad.
This book is wonderful, moving, and purposeful. It is a clear reminder that no matter what your circumstances, your challenges, your fears and frustrations, you are enough. You are also free to embrace your needs and wants, as Laura does across the years.
I would recommend this book to anyone (highly recommended for book groups) but I would say that if you’ve ever known chronic illness, horrendous pain, a**hole medical professionals, as well as medical professionals you want to take home and introduce to your mother, you will love this book.
Many thanks to Dead Ink for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can support your local bookshop by buying Please Read This Leaflet Carefully through them directly, or via Hive.
What do you think of Please Read This Leaflet Carefully? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.