What are we really looking for in love? What does it mean to
abandon oneself to another? Melissa Febos weaves together personal history, mythology,
psychology and literary references to create a nest for these questions.
Growing up with an adoptive father who was often away at sea (she refers to him
as "the captain"), Febos often felt bereft and frightened, painfully
left behind. Her mother took lovers, eventually divorcing the captain and
becoming a psychotherapist. Well-intentioned as she was, she couldn't help her
children. Febos sought solace in heroin ("I sometimes cradled the
telephone on my shoulder so that if I overdosed I might have time to dial 911")
and suffered through relationships with people who couldn't give her what she
needed. Later, sober, she turned to an obsessive romance with a married woman.
Perhaps her most faithful companion was literature. "Our favorite stories
can be like lovers. Make sense to me, we ask them. Make sense of me. Here, fix these hurting
parts." Her memoir is both intensely intimate and wide-ranging, as she
pulls together insights from sources as disparate as psychoanalyst Carl Jung, jazz
singer Billie Holiday and an ancient alchemical text. Febos is voracious in her
emotional cravings, but none is stronger than her desire to know and own
herself. The hard-won ending (truly, a beginning) is exhilarating.
— Dawn Raffel