Book Review: The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock
Inspired by the author’s real-life struggles with anxiety and panic attacks, this is a fictional story of a woman whose life falls in around her - three traumatic events in the space of a week wrecking both her personal and professional life leave her in a full-blown breakdown state. Two years later, Mercy Blain hasn’t left her house… and now she has no choice, because it’s literally burned down around her ears. Desperate for somewhere, anywhere, to hunker down in, Mercy finds herself in possession of an ancient campervan and sets out heading north from Adelaide, with a sudden wild plan of driving ‘to the other side’... to Darwin, on Australia’s far north coast, the opposite side of the continent, accompanied only by her sausage dog Wasabi. On the way she meets an intriguing cast of characters, from the expected grey nomads, some of them living in every luxury a premium motorhome can provide, to a Scotsman with a man-bun out to explore the Outback and hide from his own demons.
Really, this is a story about mental illness. And there are no magical cures here; while yes, Mercy does find her way to ‘the other side’, what she really does is develop new coping mechanisms when she discovers she’s capable of more than she believes when forced to rely on her own resources. What I really liked about it is that Mercy doesn’t find herself ‘fixed’ and go back to who she was before; at the end of the book it’s clear that she’s moving on, and she doesn’t know exactly what’s coming next but she does think she has the tools to create a life she’ll enjoy.
There are some sensitive topics handled really well here, and one thing that’s made really clear is that no matter who you are, no matter how successful you might be, a knock at the wrong moment can break anyone’s mental health, and even those with the greatest access to healthcare and treatment (Mercy is a fully qualified obstetrician) can’t just be ‘fixed’. Mercy does eventually come to the understanding that she had to get out of the comfort zone she’d been ‘hiding’ in if she was going to get better… it’s obvious that she’d had therapy, though that isn’t depicted here, but hadn’t been able to follow through on the therapist’s recommendations until she was forced out of her house.
This is a genuinely great read, gutwrenching at times, unflinchingly honest. I absolutely loved it and I will be eagerly looking to see what Kim Lock writes next.
The Other Side of Beautiful is available now, but at the time of writing this review, only appears to be for sale in Australia. Which is a shame, because it's amazing. Look out for it wherever you buy books!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.