I bought this memoir from Subtext Books last spring when I was in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for AWP. The weird thing is that I actually used to work in a building right across from this independent bookstore during the two years I lived in Minnesota. I would get lunch at Nina's Coffee Cafe—usually an overpriced turkey sandwich that took far too long for the server to make—but I rarely ventured downstairs to browse through Subtext's selection. It took two and a half years away (and a thousand mile drive across the country) for me to finally make my first purchase, and Girl in the Dark was definitely worth it.
The memoir tracks the story of Anna Lyndsey (not her real name, she uses a pseudonym) as she navigates a sudden and completely confounding medical condition: a painful sensitivity to light. In her search for answers, Anna experiences innumerable frustrating doctor visits, misdiagnoses, and bureaucratic dead ends. She is forced to take her condition into her own hands, learning how to black out her windows, successfully cover up her skin, and even travel by car while hidden beneath a heavy curtain. She struggles to keep her mind occupied while surviving in her dark apartment for months on end, listening to books on tape and creating an array of riddles and word games.
The book is arranged in short lyrical sections, with titles like "Games to Play in the Dark 3: Mind Mastermind," "Autonomy," and "The Smell of the World." The prose is simple but beautiful, capable of aptly conveying Anna's innermost feelings as well as her constantly changing psychological state. Through all of the disparate bits and pieces, one gets the sense that they are seeing a somehow truer picture—one that a traditional continuous narrative could only begin to achieve. This is a story of depression, redemption, survival, and ultimately, strong will.