Friday, January 20, 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall & Interview

* * * *

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

Source: e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Norah's life has been negatively impacted by agoraphobia and OCD. Her debilitating illness has severely limited her mobility and ability to sustain relationships. Her mind can be easily consumed with endless facts, fears, anxieties or worries eventually spiralling out of control. There are ways for her to avoid some triggers while there are some that she can't help but be drawn to. She hasn't always been this way. Norah was seemingly "normal" until one day she wasn't. Since then, she's been homeschooled and watched her once close friends drop away. From the safe distance of social media she sees life happening and people evolving in the world outside her house, everything her illness has stolen from her. When a new family moves in next door, Norah is thrown off by her new neighbour, Luke. His friendliness is so foreign to her that she can't even begin to process it. Not to mention that she's so out of practice interacting with another real life person who isn't her mother or therapist. 

"How can I expect people to empathize with a sickness they can't see?" Tears sting my eyes.

"You don't expect anything. You talk, you teach."

~ Under Rose-Tainted Skies

ROSE is an authentic and unapologetic look inside mental illness. Author, Louise Gornall who herself suffers from it, courageously shows us the good, the bad and the ugly, and in reading this book I took stock of what I take for granted. Throughout the story, Norah constantly seeks control over her environment yet can't control what happens in her head. Therein lies the rub. Sometimes things make no sense at all such as Norah's need for fresh air yet the inability to step outside without feeling like everything will cave in on her. Patience and know-how are needed to redirect Norah when she starts to spiral. Her mother is a pro at talking her down but it does require finesse. Luke as a potential love interest feels almost too good to be true but he is a hopeful reminder that there are good-hearted and sincere people out there. His presence highlights the difficulties someone like Norah can have when it comes to bringing newcomers or strangers into the fold. He isn't put off by her behaviour though, instead seeking to understand her by letting her dictate the pace. I felt as if Luke represented us readers by asking the questions for us, even stumbling along the way. His perseverance demonstrates that it's worth the time to learn from and empathize with the other person. We need more Lukes in the world! 

It wasn't too far into the book that I abandoned the notion of some dramatic Hollywood-type ending. That would only trivialize the issue. I thought that Norah got the ending befitting her emotional growth. Mental illness is not an easy concept to grasp and I'm so grateful to Gornall for not censoring the truth. UNDER ROSE-TAINTED SKIES offers insight and also hope that good things can happen, too. It should be on everyone's TBR list!

~ Bel

I was so impressed with this story that I wanted to know more about Louise Gornall. I didn't realize until after the fact that she was speaking from personal experience. I thought, "That's it. I have to reach out to her." I am in awe of her honesty and especially thankful to her for sharing her thoughts on the book with us.

There is plenty of talk about the need for diversity in books, and that includes the differences that can’t be seen such as mental illness. How important for you was it to write this story?

Real talk? I want to tell you it was great, but at first, it was the exact opposite. Rose is built on my own experiences with mental illness, and I was embarrassed to share the things that happen inside my head. There were a lot of nightmarish insecurities to overcome before I could really appreciate how important a book like Rose could be.

You’ve mentioned at the end of your book that you inserted quite a bit of yourself into Norah. What did it feel like as you were writing and sharing parts of yourself with your character?

It was uncomfortable, frightening, and at times, soul destroying. There were days when I would spends hours and hours deleting and undoing certain scenes because I was so scared to reveal some the ways my brain worked.

One of the many things that I liked about the book is the support system that surrounds Norah, that being her mother and her doctor. And then there’s Luke who befriends her. Her mother and doctor understand how to work with Norah, whereas Luke is new to it. I liked his patience and desire to get to know her, and I also liked that he made mistakes showing that it’s not always a straight line towards progress. Would you say that’s an apt description of their growing friendship?

Yes! It’s perfect. Luke is a treasure. Real trivia? He’s actually based on a boy I know in real life. The thing I love most about Luke is that he doesn’t want to fix Norah, he wants to understand her and the way she thinks about things.

Let’s lighten things up a little. Can you tell us two truths and one lie about yourself?* 

I once had to have a chunk of my brain removed because it was too big to fit in my skull.
I came first in a key-lime pie eating contest.
I’m an identical twin.

Our final question ties in to our motto: we Bibliojunkies enjoy our books, boys and pie. So….
What’s your favourite childhood book?
Oooh! I like this. So my favourite childhood book was/is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend.
Your first celebrity crush?
My first celebrity crush was Freddie Prinze, Jr. (I covered my school art folder with his picture.)
And finally, your favourite go-to dessert?
My favourite go-t-o dessert is sticky toffee cheesecake.

Connect with Louise:
Louise Gornall (source: Goodreads Profile)

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*The second statement is the lie.

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