Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Have You Found Her,and the answer is"What is Janice Erlbaum's amazing new memoir?"

When Janice Erlbaum was fifteen,she ran away from home,angry and confused and spent some time at a homeless shelter for teenagers. Twenty years later,she went back to that same shelter to become a volunteer. Janice was now a successful writer with a pretty stable life and wanted to repay some of the kindness that helped her get out of the emotional hole that she had been in.

Janice became known as "The Bead Lady"(her way of breaking the ice with the girls at the shelter was to set up an arts and crafts table)and despite being warned not to play favorites with any of the residents,she couldn't help but do so anyway. Many of the girls she wanted to mentor one on one didn't lead her into trouble but that all changed when Samantha arrived on the scene.

Samantha seemed to be a cut above the rest,a clever,well read girl who loved to write and could play Beethoven on a piano without having to have sheet music present. Sam also had tales of her tragic childhood to tell about her meth cook of a father,a mother who sold her into prostitution,a sister in a coma and a brother in the Navy who cut off all ties with the family. Sam was trying to quit using drugs,which had damaged her kidneys severely,and her numerous injuries and infections made that struggle even harder.

Janice wound up getting very close to Sam,visiting her during Sam's many hospital stays and rehab bouts,helping Sam move in with a friend after the two of them had skipped out of the shelter and even promising Sam a trip to Disney World if she stayed sober for a year. Janice was determined to help Sam,especially after Sam had revealed that she had been diagnosed with HIV.

However,certain warning signs popped up that perhaps all was not what it seemed when it came to Sam. Janice offered to be her legal guardian and asked Sam if she could be her health care proxy,something that Sam reluctantly agreed to. Whenever Janice tried to find out the exact details of Sam's health problems,Sam always seemed to find a way not to have Janice meet any of her doctors or get any solid info from someone other than her.

When the ultimate truth was revealed,it lead Janice to realize some of her own emotional needs that she had been indulging in by allowing Sam to become the daily focus of her life. She wasn't the only one taken in by Sam's duplicity but she had to ask herself why she was willing to do so and what was it about Sam that made Janice identity with her on such a personal level.

I didn't read Erlbaum's earlier memoir,Girlbomb,which is also the title of her blog,but that wasn't a hindrance to my compulsive need to read this book. Erlbaum's narrative is very addicting,compelling the reader to turn the pages and get as drawn into her experiences as she did herself. At times,it was like being in the audience of a horror movie where you want to warn the heroine not to open that door or go off alone in the woods but all the shouting at the screen doesn't stop her from getting where she has to go,in the end.

Erlbaum's emotional honesty about how this whole portion of her life affected her and the other people in her world truly endears her to the reader. It's not a story that would make one be turned off to the whole idea of reaching out to someone who is in need,rather it's a good way to encourage a person to keep their eyes open as they seek to not only help out but help themselves in the process.

Have You Found Her will be out in bookstores on February 12,and if you're looking for an interesting and emotionally investing read,give it a try. It's a worthy journey of the heart and soul.

No comments: