Memoir Review: Because We Are Bad

May 22, 2018 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★★

Memoir Review: Because We Are BadTitle: Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought
Author: Lily Bailey

Summary: Fascinating, moving, impossible to put down.

“By the age of thirteen, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. She had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and ogled the bodies of other children. Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough.”(source) This is the story of her struggle to live with her OCD.

This memoir was so engaging and hard to put down, it felt a little voyeuristic. It made me feel less bad that the author clearly intended this to be an engaging read. The chapters were short and snappy. They often ended on a cliff hanger. I constantly wanted to find out what happened next and devoured this book in only two sittings. The author also wrote about her experiences in an evocative way. Not having shared her experience of having OCD, I felt she helped me understand better what that’s like. I never found her behavior inexplicable. She shared what she was feeling – fear for her little sister, for example – so vividly that I was right there with her. Something I thought was particularly effective was when she described a delusion as though at were real, only sharing with the reader that the events were imagined as she came to that realization herself.

Note that in the next paragraph, there are spoilers about the tone of the ending. Feel free to skip.

Blah, blah, giving you some time to run from the spoilers…

Ok, here we go…

Having recently read The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, I couldn’t help but notice that this was a recovery memoir. Although the author does indicate that she still has some bad days, in general, she leaves us on a very positive note. I can’t say that bothered me. It was obviously the ending I hoped for, but it also seemed believable. I hope she’s not painting an overly positive picture to give the reader a sense of closure, because her memoir certainly left me rooting for her. The ending was also quite moving and is what pushed this up to a five star read for me. I picked this up on a bit of whim and I’m glad I did. I’d definitely recommend it.

12 Responses to “Memoir Review: Because We Are Bad”

    • DoingDewey

      It was and I really liked that about it. The author drew me into her experience and I definitely felt for her when her OCD started to impact her life more as she got older and as she started to manage it.

  1. Grab the Lapels

    I’ve only recently started reading a lot more nonfiction, and I always wonder if a memoir CAN have spoilers as I’m writing my reviews. The author is still alive (usually), so we know things “work out.” What are your thoughts?

    • DoingDewey

      That’s a good point! It’s true, in a memoir you know at a minimum that the author survives. In this case, I think things could have ended on a more or less positive note about how she was managing to live with her OCD, but I suppose even the fact that she’s writing a book suggests things went well.

  2. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I’ve thought about reading this lately, as it’s been a while since I read a good “this is what mental illness is like” book. There’s OCD in my family, and although I’m mostly okay about it, there are definitely times when I have very obsessive thoughts about crazy things and I have to work hard to dial it back.

    • DoingDewey

      I’d definitely recommend picking it up. It was a really good “this is what meantal illness is like” book. It was a quick, engaging read, but the author made me at least feel like I have a greater understanding of her experiences for having read this.

  3. Ruthiella

    Memoirs always feel little voyeuristic to me. This does sound good, however, and out of the ordinary in its topic.

    • DoingDewey

      I don’t typically feel that way about memoirs, perhaps because I know the author is choosing to share this information, but in this case, I felt a little weird about finding her struggle with mental illness so gripping. It was an experience almost like reading a thriller and that felt inappropriate to me when she was dealing with such a serious topic! I could see feeling that way about other memoirs too though, since in all cases we’re reading about someone’s life as entertainment.

  4. Naomi

    “Fascinating, moving, impossible to put down” – That’s all you had to say to convince me on this one!

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