Teaching the Cat to Sit by Michelle Theall

4/5 Stars

There I was; at the library; browsing the nonfiction/memoirs section. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I was looking for something. Then I came across this quirky little title. Combined with the cover, I knew that I was going to be checking this book out. (Yes, I judge books by their covers and titles, so sue me. I will actually be touching on this subject in an upcoming Musings Monday.) I’ve been trying to get myself in the swing of reading more nonfiction, especially since I no longer get doses of information and history through college courses. I figured that memoirs would be a nice transition to getting back in the swing of it. So, a long story later, I left the library with Michelle Theall’s memoir in tow.

In her life story, Theall focusses on what it was like growing up a strict catholic and the impact that had on her when she finally accepted that she was a lesbian. She went through countless stages of denial and was rejected by her parents after coming out to them. The story is told both through the past and present (alternating every chapter) to convey where Theall was and how far she has come. The past focuses mainly on incidents that reflect how she was different than what the religion would consider normal and how that had a huge impact on her psychologically, while the present centers around her, her partner Jill, and their adopted son Connor and how they’re still working to integrate into society. Theall has not had it easy accepting who she really is, and her present situation in her memoir (taking place in 2010) is not making it any easier for her.

First off, I really loved how this memoir was set up. I loved the flip flopping of chapters back and forth from present to past. It was a fantastic strategy to keep tension flowing throughout her memoir, something that can be hard in nonfiction writing. This strategy really made the book come together as well, since you could kind of put together her life pieces to make the person that she has become. It was also was very cool to see her simultaneously come together at such pivotal points of her life.

However, even given this great strategy, the story wouldn’t have come together nearly as well as it did if Theall’s writing didn’t also shine. I found her voice easy to read and her writing flowed smoothly, causing me to devour this book in chunks. I probably could have finished this in one sitting if I didn’t have this weird reading strategy thing going to try and optimize my time between all the books I’m currently reading. (Don’t ask; my reading life is currently a mess.) Theall weaves a story that is powerful, touching, and heartwarming. You can feel her emotion in her writing and can tell that she put a lot of effort into the telling of her life so far.

Writing a memoir is a brave and scary thing to do. Theall completely exposes herself to her readers, something that, upon reading the book, you will find has not been an easy thing for her to do. I applaud her bravery and definitely think this was a risk worth taking. The only complaint I have about this memoir is that sometimes Theall’s writing and themes can get a bit repetitive, but as this was a way to help herself heal, or at least that’s how it came across to me, it’s not something that I feel is a significant annoyance to touch deeply on.

I am exceptionally happy that I picked up that book with the quirky little title at the library, because this was a fantastic read. I highly recommend this book, especially if you like memoirs. Theall’s story is one that deserves to be read, and I give it (and her) the utmost praise for touching on a subject that has made her feel guilty most of her life and writing in a way that releases that guilt and morphs it into acceptance.

Thanks for reading. That’s all for this week. I’ll be back Sunday with the Sunday Review. Have a great weekend everyone! Also, here are my other links as usual: Tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram.

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