2 out of 4 stars
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Not a Blueprint: It's the Shoe Prints That Matter by Nina Norstrom reads as her journal of having survived abusive relationships and the traumatic event of being on the peripheral of a loved one having cancer. The autobiography begins when the Nina is in her teens and meets the wrong man, becomes impregnated with their child then continues until the moment she loses her teen daughter, China, to a terminal illness. Along the way, the reader receives an in-depth perspective into the author’s past toxic and strong relationships, both romantic and platonic, and learns about her experience in a lower-middle class state of living.
In retrospect, I find that there are two parts of the novella though it isn’t officially stated – the first part concentrates on the author's romantic relationships and the second on her daughter and the fight with cancer in its later stages. The narrative of Part I comes across as a more objective and concise perspective and gives me, as someone who is ignorant of such toxicity in relationships, a very detailed idea of what some individuals must navigate through. In contrast, Part II is much more emotional as it narrates China’s journey with cancer and her struggle with living as a normal teenager. The author’s trauma is obvious and raw, which makes me feel sympathetic as I’ve never losing a child. Overall, the insight of a single parent's obstacles is fleshed out but in a manner where there is too much information.
Sometimes, the information in the novel can be eye-opening and sometimes, processing it is too difficult. In the positive case, one of the most interesting themes in the story is the housing. Perhaps it is because of today’s housing crisis my region is experiencing but I find the snippets of finding housing intriguing in that the author manages to find a new home when the situation calls for it. Though these homes in the novella don’t seem like luxury homes, finding a decent place to live for two within budget is a difficult feat to manage here. In terms of the more negative aspect of information processing, the author demonstrates in a few sentences too many how she manages finances and relationships. The characters that enter her life seem to be great people but at the end, only a handful of them actually assist her when she needs it. Because of the level of toxicity these characters contribute to the author's lifestyle, I questioned whether they are simply one-dimensional in writing or if they are actually a true representation of the interactions in reality. I don't doubt people can be cruel when someone is in a bad place. Of all the relationships the author has, the strongest and sweetest is with her daughter. While reading, I could sense the love and admiration between parent and child, traits that don't falter when the author has a questionable individual around.
Regarding formatting, the author’s is unique because she begins each chapter with a preview in quotations then ends with ‘lessons learned’ section. The sections in the last few chapters become redundant though as those chapters focus more on the raw emotions and the chapters tend to blend together. It makes it difficult to pinpoint distinct ‘lessons learned’. Unfortunately, the novella’s language doesn't sit well with as it seems clumsy in part two and I feel some more editing could have made the story more concise and have a stronger impact. The imagery throughout the novel has the potential to be vivid but instead, the choice of vocabulary downplays certain scenes.
I rate the story 2 out of 4 stars. It has a strong beginning, foreshadows a traumatic event to come and when it happens, it reads as weaker because of the formatting and language issues. This insight into the author’s life can be a great for those who are looking for a short slice of life read. If one does choose to read it, please note that there are some very detailed scenes surrounding the treatment for China goes for and this can trigger those who are still going working through their trauma of a cancer diagnosis for themselves or loved one and/or the loss of a child. There are also mentions of physical assault as well. It is obvious that the author wants to assist those who have gone through similar situations as her as she does lists plenty of resources in the novella’s appendix, which I feel could be useful for those in America and struggling with these same issues.
Not a Blueprint: It's the Shoe Prints That Matter
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