Publishers have become quite adept at re-releasing books the masses already have consumed. Just slap on a fancy, limited-edition cover or add a freshly penned prologue and bam – suddenly its a new product designed to generate additional revenue within a struggling industry eager to maximize profits.
Every once in a while, though, one of those repackaged works does something unusual: It elevates the quality of the original, turning it into a deeper, more meaningful read.
Such is the case with Amy Fusselmans The Pharmacists Mate and 8, a new collection that combines the authors two previously issued mini-memoirs into one cohesive exploration of a womans attempt to process lifes darker moments – the loss of a parent, struggles with fertility, the lingering cloud of childhood abuse – and to carve out a path toward light.
The Pharmacists Mate – an account of Fusselmans attempt to get pregnant while dealing with the grief following her fathers death – was first published in 2001, a time when sharing ones private thoughts was still several years away from being an everyday event on social media.
At first, in that context, Fusselmans words may seem like yet another exercise in oversharing.
But the writers skill – here she deftly weaves together her own spurts of diary-style insight with passages from her dads journals circa World War II – quickly shines through.
The loss of a loved one, especially a parent, inevitably forces a person to examine her own mortality, which Fusselman does with wry humor and a sense of wonder: I am sitting here in my corpse, she writes at one point, noting that even as she types she is, like all of us, slowly dying. I am wiggling my corpse fingers like a puppeteer, making a sound like an insect clicking.
In 8, Fusselman – a contributor to McSweeneys website, whose book publishing arm issued this release – manages to turn her experiences with hands-on healing, sleep-training her son, motorcycle instruction and resurgent memories of the pedophile who tried to rape her at age 4 into a meditation on releasing fear and embracing joy.
Its as though 8, first published in 2007, were always meant to be read this way, right after The Pharmacists Mate.
The first part of this story is about understanding that life is something delicate, not always easy to bring into the world and very difficult to let go of once it leaves. And the second is about what a grown woman does with her own life once shes fully armed with that knowledge.