Anyone who has seen a homeless person, who has wondered why welfare exists, who has struggled to understand why another person is acting the way they do should read Jane Hersey’s Full Circle. This is a book on understanding. It shows that there’s a lot more than what you see under the surface of who people are in public. It shows that people do try doing the best they can with what they have, and that sometimes the best they can is not enough and their fellow members of society need to step in and help.
It’s important to note from the start that Hersey didn’t write Full Circle to become famous, to make money, or to get personal attention. Writing was the only way she knew to tell what she had been through. The book illustrates what it feels like to grow up and survive in the world after a traumatic childhood. In writing it, Hersey went through what I can only imagine was a tremendously painful process of reliving past tragedies to make her voice heard and to “raise awareness of the enduring effects of deep and prolonged poverty and deprivation.” Full Circle is the sequel to Breath in the Dark, which details everything Hersey had to live through growing up, including the responsibility of caring for her drug-addicted and bulimic mother and two brothers, being raped by her father, and enduring poverty. Full Circle begins when Hersey is a young adult and focuses on the aftereffects of abuse.
Hersey’s writing is real and raw and astonishingly honest. Her book’s sporadic flow and lack of structure help the reader understand her thinking. She speaks from a perspective of valuing others’ feelings and emotions and taking absolutely no stock in her own. Throughout the book it’s apparent that she has zero self-worth. She is incapable of connecting with people or dealing with social interactions. She can’t take care of herself or her son, can’t interpret the actions of others, and can only see to make others feel better by sacrificing herself. Looking from a psychologist’s perspective, one can see that Hersey was not given the love and nurturing necessary to create a secure attachment, and that the effects of this deprivation lasted long into adulthood. The way Hersey sees things are so clouded by her inability to cope that she completely misreads situations. She doesn’t understand what it means to be loved and doesn’t know how to hold a conversation.
I was very engaged with Hersey’s progression throughout the book. I mourned with her failures to connect, I felt anger at those who mistreated her, and I wanted badly to give her a hug and let her know that there is good in the world. I spent the whole book wondering if she would ever escape from the ugly side of the world and find good. Obviously she must have come out of it somewhat, because she was able to write this book — but the text ends just as she is beginning the journey of therapy and recovery.
Every week I hear people judging individuals who can’t hold down a job and can’t take care of themselves. The same goes for Hersey. People tend to blame her for not thinking about others and for selfishly thinking only of herself. But through reading her book, the reader comes to understand that the author has barely an awareness in her frazzled mind of what’s going on — that all situations are bogged down with a thick fog of anxiety and self-loathing.
Hersey’s story can serve as an eye-opener for those who don’t see why some people struggle to take care of themselves. It is a must-read for anyone studying attachment disorders or trying to understand a person who’s had a rough childhood. I wish only that I had been able to read about the later years, when Hersey hopefully reaches the end of the tunnel and is perhaps able to enjoy the sunlight.
Troubador Publishing Ltd, February, 2013
Paperback, 178 Pages