About a week ago I received a gift in the mail - a copy of my friend Shanta Everington's newly published first novel - Marilyn and Me. And let me tell you, it certainly is a gift! Not just this single copy to me, but to the world as well.
Marilyn and Me is the story of Jane Marie Brown, a determined, fiesty and loving young woman who happens to have a mental disability. Jane's idol is Marilyn Monroe - so much so that she bleached her hair, has an extensive Marilyn Monroe collection of knick-knacks, and has unofficially changed her own name to Marilyn.
The story begins with Marilyn in the hospital, recovering from a brutal attack she suffered while waiting at the bus stop on her way to a New Year's Eve party. Throughout the story, we learn just how deeply this personal, physical attack affects not only Marilyn, but also those around her - her family, friends, and care support workers. Everyone, we learn, has their own demons, fears, and obstacles to get past.
I absolutely loved this book! I love what a strong character Marilyn is. She is a wonderful mix of strength, determination, naivete', curiosity, and love. I love how she wants nothing more than to get back to her own apartment and start leading her own life again. How interesting that it's the hang ups and concerns of others that prevent her from doing as she wishes. Even though she's an adult and can do things on her own (as Marilyn keeps reminding everyone), because of her mental challenges, those around her know she needs their help. Or does she?
Shanta has worked in the support field with learning disabled adults for several years. She knows what she's writing about. And her way of portraying Marilyn as just another human being with as many troubles, foibles, charms and issues as anyone else - disabled or not - well, it's just undeniably beautiful and freeing.
As Marilyn herself puts it after talking with her ex-support worker, Natasha, about the life changes Natasha feels she needs to make for herself,
She is Natasha and she is okay. Sometimes, she is happy and sometimes, she is sad and sometimes, she makes mistakes and sometimes, she cries. She is just a woman. Like me.
Thank you, Shanta, for sharing your book with me and with the world. You've shown what capable, loving, real and honest people look like. You've given a face to the disabled community - a beautiful face that, actually, looks very similar to just about anyone else out there.
Yes, Marilyn was a victim of an attack. But Shanta shows us that we are all, in our own little ways, in our own little worlds, similarly victims of "attacks" - self imposed, physical, mental, or otherwise. That is, we all have issues - disabled or not, famous or not, black, white, red, yellow or purple - it just doesn't matter.
But much more importantly, Shanta shows us that we are also, each and every one of us, able to move past our troubles both through our own hard work and with the help of those around us. Friends who care enough to know when to give and when to stand back and let the other person fly free.
Do yourself a favor and give yourself the gift of Marilyn and Me. I highly recommend it. Copies are available for purchase at amazon.com.uk and/or cinnamonpress.com. Go now - and enjoy.