4 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever been through something in your life that made you want to run away, not just metaphorically, but literally go to some new place where you could start over? You may have royally messed up, and you hoped that leaving would allow you to escape the judgment and condemnation of others. You may have been wounded, and you believed that new scenery would allow you to outrun the persistent pain that plagued you. If you have felt this way, then you will be able to relate to Emily Paulson.
Highlight Real: Finding Honesty and Recovery Beyond the Filtered Life, by Emily Lynn Paulson, is an enthralling memoir. Having weathered many obstacles throughout her life, Paulson retells her story with charisma, humor, and transparency. She confesses to inventing outrageous lies as a child just because she wanted to appear favorable in the eyes of others. Above and beyond this, she narrates more shocking, gut-wrenching events. These events include being raped at the age of twelve, experiencing multiple sexual assaults later in life, wrestling with an eating disorder, and battling alcoholism.
No matter how many times she changed her zip code, the problems that she faced came along for the ride. They may have come in a slightly different form or more attractive packaging, but eventually, she learned she could not overcome her problems by running. She would have to face them, and facing them meant finally being honest with herself and her family. Her memoir takes the reader along through her journey; her highlight real.
This book has many strengths. The story is told at a good pace and therefore doesn't bog down. Some of the heartaches that Paulson experienced were solely caused by the actions of others, such as her rape. Others were clearly due to her own poor choices, such as her choice to have an affair while being married. Paulson successfully helps the reader empathize with the bad choices she made, without skirting responsibility. She owns her poor decisions while acknowledging the extent to which the pain of her rape fueled many of those decisions. Even though she covers heavy topics, Paulson's matter-of-fact, witty manner helps the reader to not be unduly weighed down. My favorite part of the book was how Paulson eventually chose a path of healing. She finally broke away from her negative habits and hangups. She is so passionate about healing, she has chosen to use her story as a way to encourage others.
I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. I cannot think of any way to improve this memoir. I listened to it as an audiobook, so I cannot speak to the quality of the editing of the text. Paulson shamelessly reveals her true self. By doing so, she illuminates a path for others to find healing. She lets others see that there is always hope. I recommend this book to people who are struggling with addiction, an eating disorder, depression, or the aftermath of sexual assault. I also recommend this book to those who have a loved one who is enduring any of these battles. Readers who are sensitive to descriptions of any of the issues described above may want to avoid this book. Also, for the same reasons, this book may not be appropriate for younger readers.
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