4 out of 4 stars
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In Exit the Labyrinth, author Stephanie Kay Bendel sets the standard for how a memoir should be written. Although this is a true story of “Margo Witz” (all names in the book have been changed) and her experiences dealing with lifelong depression, it reads like a novel and is impossible to put down.
The year is 1989. Margo’s father is undergoing open heart surgery, and she travels with her daughter from their home in Colorado back to Margo’s childhood home in Grandfather Falls, Wisconsin, to be with her family during this sensitive time. Being in her hometown brings back a lot of memories, many of them not-so-pleasant, but so much of her childhood is still a blank. Her therapist is convinced that discovering the root of her depression will help her unlock those memories. She has already undergone years of hypnotherapy, but she has still not recovered those key moments which may have triggered her childhood depression.
“It is as if my memory were originally a long string of colored beads, but somehow the string broke, and my beads have been scattered and lost. Now I am beginning to find them, but I’m not sure what order to put them in.”
Unlike most memoirs, Exit the Labyrinth is not told in chronological order. The most recent events of the story take place in 1989, but throughout the book Margo recalls past events from as far back as the 1940s, such as the time she met her father for the first time after he returned home from his post in the Navy after World War 2. There are seemingly random memories that pop up amidst the current events of sitting in the waiting room while her father is in surgery, but by the time the end of the book rolls around, nothing seems so random at all. Everything flows together nicely, and all of the puzzle pieces of Margo’s life begin to fit together as the book progresses. It’s easy to understand Margo and her life, and the picture that forms from these pieces of her puzzle is breathtaking.
Everything about this book screams excellence: the flawless writing, the wonderful portrayal of characters, the unique rhythm of the timeline, the satisfying conclusion (though some might argue it is a bit anticlimactic, as Margo herself acknowledges), and the bond that can easily be formed between Margo and readers. Every memory in the story is relevant to Margo’s development as a person, even though she feels out of sync with the rest of her family. My favorite story revolves around how Margo’s youngest brother got a new tile floor in his bedroom, and any story that involved her father’s sense of logic had me laughing out loud.
For all of the reasons mentioned above, I gladly give Exit the Labyrinth a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. For those who enjoy memoirs, this is a must-read. Those who have battled with depression may also find comfort in this book.
Exit the Labyrinth
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