Heal Me by Julia Buckley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like Julia Buckley, I suffer chronic pain. Like her, it's not something I do passively; nor do I take for granted what the so-called experts tell me. It's my body, after all. My pain. Unlike her, though, I don't travel the world in search of a cure. I don't go to Lourdes on a pilgrimage, or to China to seek out a "world-famous" Chinese doctor, or Brazil for a healing week with John of God. Can't afford to, for one thing. 

But I'm also fundamentally at odds with the approach that seeks a permanent solution "out there", that invests everything in what someone else might be able to do to, or for, you. That's emphatically not how this frustratingly mysterious thing called 'pain' works. And she knows it. Nevertheless, an advance needs spending and a book needs writing. And it's not exactly a bad book. It's just that I can't help thinking, on every other page, how much better it could be, both as a book about pain and as a book per se. I found myself constantly confused by the cast of characters for a start: where has Kevin come from? why are we suddenly taking to Mike? if Thabiso is the South African healer, who is Otiss? Who cares? 

It could, of course, be my lack of concentration. Or it could be a fault of a narrative who main protagonist (Buckley herself) is so big and so all-pervading that no-one else stands a chance at being fleshed out on the page, of becoming even a minor supporting character. This is a world of names (some of which have been changed) and what they either tell or do or don't do to Julia. Her pain is a bigger character than any of the human walk-ons. Her pain. Her. We're so much in the mind of someone so utterly unlike anyone else I've ever met with lived experience of chronic pain that the book might as well be some kind of fantasy fiction. Bring on the odd dragon and we've got it covered. 

I suppose I can't really complain, though. After all, the title is "Heal Me". Not us; not "Heal Me and Here's What I Found Out Along the Way That Might Help Others". No. Me. Me me me. All the way home.

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