My thanks to Retreat West for providing me with an ebook of A Song Inside. The decision to read was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.
This is a story about love…
‘You are a song inside me now, a melody that stirs and bursts into life when I think of you.’
In this heart-breaking, thought-provoking and ultimately uplifting memoir, Gill Mann remembers life with her son Sam – a boy and young man who enchanted and infuriated in equal measure. Sam saw colours where others saw grey. He made people feel alive. His unvanquishable spirit sings out as Gill reflects on the joys he brought, the difficulties of his struggles with schizophrenia, and the impact of his death.
Part journal, part journey into the past, and part conversation with Sam, in this beautifully written memoir, Gill thoughtfully and tenderly reveals her relationship with her son, both before and after his death. A Song Inside explores universal issues of love and loss to reveal how we can move forward and find happiness again, without leaving behind the people we have lost.
In the interest of full disclosure I just wanted make it clear that I manage the Retreat West Twitter/FB pages. However, as the author is donating royalties from the sale of this book to mental health charities, I felt compelled to share my review of this book on my own platform to show support not only for the author, who has been so incredibly brave to share her story, but also to support those mental health services, from whom both myself and members of my family have benefited from in the past. Beyond all this, this truly is a story which deserves to be read and recommended.
I’ve heard of some readers shying away from this book, because just as in life, the thought and theme of death creates a flurry of overwhelming emotions; fear, sadness and in many cases, a feeling of awkwardness. As a society we just don’t know how to deal with death, despite its eventual inevitability. Couple this with mental health – a subject which affects so many, and yet is still far too taboo for my liking – and this can easily perceived to be a difficult read.
And in places, it is. But it is also so much more.
It is an expression of internal thought, the processes the author went through as she worked through the initial grief of losing her son moving through to anger, guilt, acceptance and finally being able to look forward, all whilst embracing the past and of course, never forgetting the impact Sam had on all of their lives.
The most successful element of this book for me, are the beautiful conversations Gill Mann imagines with her son, Sam. Honest and loving in equal measure, they explore events that have gone before, emotions arising then and feelings in the present. I was completely mesmerised by these sections. They gave the most wonderful insight into the mother/son relationship and their family unit as a whole. Special moments are immortalised within these passages and I could feel the cathartic release within her writing.
Whilst the theme of grief is a constant, so to is the theme of motherhood. It burrows to its very core, because this is, when all is stripped away, a love letter from a mother to her son. It speaks of an unconditional love, and the highs and lows all that entails. It’s uncomfortable reading at times, but it’s real and there’s a beauty in that. The pride she takes in her son is evident throughout and in this there is a joy which perfectly balances the otherwise heartbreaking nature of the book.
Mann’s writing style is easy to read and felt to cradle me as the reader close to her; a confidant receiving the most precious of memories. Far from feeling sombre when I closed the back page, I instead felt the most lovely urge to hold my family tight to me. To revel in everything we have and the love we have for each other and live our lives for today. Reading this book, being allowed to glimpse these most personal and private moments, has been a true honour. Thank you, Gill for sharing Sam’s story.