I wrote briefly on Saturday about the book By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden. My friend who suggested it then suggested another, this one was Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan. I’ve written about Heidi before because I’ve read her books Love Lessons and Fever Ptich. I’d seen Carry the Ocean before but after reading the blurb, I had decided that it didn’t sound like a book I wanted to read. Here’s the blurb:
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.
I’m glad my friend convinced me that I should read this book. She said, “I consider it one of the best books I have read this year and hope, if you decide to give it a try, you will enjoy it too.” I value her opinion greatly, so I knew I had to give it a try. I downloaded the Kindle sample and began to read. The first thing you do is fall in love with Emmet. You can’t help it. The sample wasn’t enough, I needed to read the whole book.
I also have to admit that I cried, a lot with his book. When I read Amy Lane, I always cry some, but I don’t think I got through a single page of this book without a tear in my eye. I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but I will be honest, since I lost my job, I cry very easily. My depression is harder to fight right now. Not everyone will cry as much as I did, but it was worth it. You see, I don’t have autism, major depressive disorder, or clinical anxiety, but I identified with them. Let me break this down so that I can explain it better.
I’ve always felt very intelligent. Like Emmet, I learned you can’t say that to other people, but you can thank them if they tell you that. I am not a genius, but I do possess above average intelligence. For example, I went to the dentist once in high school, the dental hygienist asked me how school was going, and I told her all the things that were going great and about some of my accomplishments. I was set to be valedictorian at the time (I did graduate as valedictorian). She told my mother later, “He thinks a lot of himself, doesn’t he?” I was mortified when I found this out. I’d only told her what she’d asked. I honestly wasn’t bragging, but she thought I was. So, since then I’ve learned not to tell people I’m intelligent but to let them figure it out for themselves. This makes it very hard in applying for jobs and in job interviews because even though you need to sell yourself to the interviewer, I’m always afraid that they are going to think , “He thinks a lot of himself, doesn’t he?” So while not autistic, some of Ememt’s issues hit home pretty hard.
Furthermore, I don’t have a major depressive disorder, but I do have depression. I take an antidepressant for it, and I know that it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time. You’ve seen from this blog that I have dark days. For Jeremey, it makes it hard for him to get out of bed; for me, it usually manifests itself as cluster headaches, which can be just as debilitating. I’ve battled depression for many years, and I also understand the influence parents can have on our mental state. Jeremey also feels what others are feeling. If someone is sad, he becomes sadder. If someone is scared, he becomes more scared. He’s a very empathetic character, but he sees that as a weakness. I think one of my strongest traits is that I am empathetic. I can take on the feelings and understand someone else’s emotions, but I use this to try to help people.
Also, I don’t have clinical anxiety, but I do have anxiety attacks. Usually they happen when I have an approaching deadline, and I feel that I’m running out of time. I have them really bad when I have to fly in an airplane, and sometimes have them in crowds. The airplane situation is dealt with easily with Xanax, which I take to ward off the panic attacks, but the other ones I can’t predict until it’s too late. I have coping strategies, what Emmet would call modifications, to handle my anxiety attacks. What works for me is to sing to myself, “You Are My Sunshine.” Mama used to sing this to me as a child and I find it comforting. But also concentrating on the meter of the song, I can slow things down. When I have a panic attack, my heart races and everything moves so fast and I feel completely out of control. “You Are My Sunshine” calms me down and slows down my mind.
When I’d first read the blurb for Carry the Ocean I didn’t think I’d be interested in reading it. Usually, when I find a book that I love, it’s because I can identify in some way with the main character. I didn’t think I could do this with Emmet or Jeremey. However, here’s why I think this book is so extraordinary: Heidi Cullinan has written two characters that seem so different from us, but I challenge any of you to read this book and not identify in some way with these characters. I honestly don’t think you can.
I cried a lot in this book because it was powerful and emotional. I cried because I was happy or empathetic. It’s hard to describe the emotions that this book evoked in me. It made me happy, it broke my heart, and it touched my soul. I think there are three lessons to learn from this book. First, don’t judge a book by it’s cover (literally and metaphorically). There is so much more to this book than that blurb, just as there was so much more to Emmet and Jeremey than most people could see. Second, there is no such thing as normal. Third, while some of us merely carry buckets of water, some of us Carry the Ocean.