From the very first page, Pamela Gay takes the reader into the most traumatic day of her life, the day she spends the rest of her years to date recovering from. She is eighteen, home from college for Thanksgiving, and her father is being taken from the house in a strait jacket. Her mother tells Pamela to “watch the turkey” as she leaves her home alone. A few years later, after her father’s electroshock treatments, both parents move to Florida while Gay is in college in Massachusetts, the second trauma: abandonment.
This is not an easy read for anyone who has mental illness in their family, or in their own experience. It can also trigger anxiety for readers who felt abandoned as a child, were exposed to adult dysfunction, or came from unhappy families. One page includes a disturbing photograph of an image the author created during this trying time. That said, Gay does a thorough job of explaining how she felt and how she overcame it.
Her structure is an unusual one for memoir. She created a table of contents with the topics: Prelude, Decades Later:1995, Healing From Trauma, Perception and Postlude, and follows the story with extensive Endnotes with references to books and articles she has researched. Many of her chapters are less than a page in length. She includes numerous quotes from other writers to illustrate her points, and she even includes a recipe she made for her mother on one visit.
The timeline is a bit jumpy, but not hard to follow, as she goes forward and back through her trauma, her reunion with her mother and much older siblings, and numerous arguments and unpleasant encounters. Her therapy sessions and the research she has done on healing trauma seemed worthy of a separate book to me. I would have liked more description of her growing up years, and less focus on her mother’s life, but that was the author’s choice, as all memoir writers must do. With all her focus on personal trauma, I wished for more details on what the author liked to do, her time with friends, etc.
For readers and writers of memoir who want to see how a unique narrative structure works, I’m So Glad You’re Here will prove to be instructive and intriguing, like putting together a puzzle when one knows how the final picture is supposed to look.
This was not a memoir I enjoyed, because of the subject matter and the feeling of distance from the author, but I commend the author for diving into her own troubled past to heal herself and then sharing that journey with others, that they may find hope as well.