REVIEW

Mari Andrew's My Inner Sky a curiously colourful collection of words and pictures

  • My Inner Sky, by Mari Andrew. Allen & Unwin, $29.99.

Mari Andrew - of whom I was previously unaware - has been described as "the New York Times bestselling author and social media sensation with over 1 million followers and adoring fans".

And in case this information failed to focus my jaded attention, a finger-wagging cover blurb added more: "This book is a reminder that healing is humbling, that resilience is beautiful, that there is joy in choosing yourself."

Okay, so now I'm paying attention.

I had expected a collection of possibly world-weary essays from an American writer suitably seasoned by the vagaries of New York life.

I found instead a curiously colourful collection of memoir fragments, including watercolour-wash illustrations, embellished by child-like printed epigraphs.

I spent the first third of the book trying to decide if this was whimsically coy or clever, the second third feeling slightly embarrassed by becoming emotionally involved, and the remainder conceding (perhaps reluctantly) that the author had successfully navigated a dangerous reef between platitude and punditry.

Andrew's author picture displays a brightly smiling, alert young woman, with long hair and fashionably large glasses.

Her book is a love letter to New York, wrapped inside journeys elsewhere, and divided into time and place reflections that winsomely play upon the moods of "embracing day, night and all the time in between".

She is good with the kind of deceptive one-liners that carry more weight than a first glance might suppose.

Such as: "The opposite of depression is not happiness, but wanting," or "the opposite of hope is not disappointment, but apathy".

Andrew's elsewhere stories reach into Spain, Greece, Australia (briefly), and France, seeking lost happiness and relationship solace, even though she appears to have many supportive friends.

However, the underlying impetus for sharpening the colour of her life belongs to the city of New York, countering negative perceptions by saying, "It takes energy to observe, not simply to see".

She is also warily conscious of unexpected pitfalls. Such as a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, that immobilises her in a Spanish hospital, leaving a long and painful recovery.

Andrew's playfulness in dealing with the random sadness and joy of finding love and meaning is handsomely produced, with an eye-catching hard cover and good design, despite the small print font.

In our cynical age of hectic social media, where feelgood messages can be easily scorned, this one succeeds.

This story Strangely compelling fragments of memoir first appeared on The Canberra Times.