Review | Count Me In, Emily White

21984212How do you connect in an increasingly disconnected world? This book details Emily White’s various attempts to find a sense of connection and belonging.

White has an easy narrative style — her list of attempts are a series of episodes, many ending with her feeling like something was still missing.

Some episodes were interesting — I enjoyed the chapters about the pig activists and the Pilates class. Unfortunately, while I sympathize with the inability to find the right “fit” with a group, the narration sometimes came off as repetitive, whiny and indulgent. I had to agree with White’s friend Laura who, after one of the episodes, asked “with a hint of sarcasm that wasn’t quite like her” if White felt “part of something.” You could almost hear the “yet” at the end.

Another friend early on called White out on not connecting with her neighbours because they weren’t rich enough, & I realized that’s part of what bothered me about White’s writing. Her tone is one of privilege, & her quest comes off as self-centred. In the incident with Laura earlier, rather than express concern over why Laura had been uncharacteristically sarcastic, White instead takes the question at face value and uses it as a springboard to think about her own feelings.

White goes from one cause to another, & while she professes to sympathize with animals and nature in general, her observations are more about how the group leader treated her and how overly friendly the group members are. She tries to be self-effacing but doesn’t quite have the humour to pull it off.

To her credit, she does admit her shortcomings throughout and learn from her experiences near the end. And once she does learn, the writing becomes less episodic and more insightful. An experience with her dog near the end was by far the strongest part of this book – it was heartfelt, beautifully written, & led to possibly the most important insight in her quest for belonging.

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Thanks to Random House Canada for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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