12 January 2011

Review of Katherine Ellison's Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

I essentially thought that Katherine Ellison's memoir of her "year of paying attention" was three things:

1. A memoir: Although the book's cover claims that it is a memoir, I think this is the aspect in which Ellison's book is least successful.  As a memoir, it tells the story of Ellison's struggles with the diagnosis and treatment of her son Buzz's ADHD.  At the beginning of the journey a problem with attention, and her own treatment becomes part of the story as well.  Her experiences, to me, didn't seem like the stuff of memoir.  With  the distracted society that we live in, consideration of problems with attention feel pedestrian, and although many of her experiences are harrowing,  her narrative doesn't pack the emotional wallop of other successful memoirs. There is an Eat, Pray, Love moment when she visits a meditation retreat, which did make for good reading, but it isn't consistent throughout.

2. A popular science book:  For me, because of my personal interests, this was the aspect of this book that was most successful.  I enjoyed the chapters that explored the neuroscience behind the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.  In particular, I enjoyed hearing about Ellison's experiences with the well-known Dr. Amen of Change Your Brain, Change Your Body fame.  I also enjoyed the chapter on biofeedback.  However, the book isn't consistently a book about brain science, so this isn't fully a success either.

3. A guidebook for parent's with children who struggle with attention issues:  The dust jacket claims, "Buzz is a story bound to beguile parents grappling with their children's bewildering behavior, or simply seeking some peace at home." This is where I believe that this book is certainly a success.  The memoir aspect of the book makes Ellison's prose honest and sympathetic.  She also- since she is funded by her publishing deal - is able to explore and discourse on many possible treatment paths for herself and her son.  I think that in the end, this book becomes more of the self-help genre; it is a valuable resource for those in the same situation as Ellison herself.

I realized about halfway through the book that I was having trouble focusing on the book, because it seemed to have some ADHD.  Then I realized that this might be brilliantly intentional.  However, in the end, I have to commit the ultimate cliche of the reviewer and say that I couldn't relate.

Bottom Line:  I would absolutely recommend this book for parents and children struggling with treating an attention disorder- and there are plenty of readers in this category.  However, for fans of memoir, I'm not sure it lived up to my generic expectations. 

**I received this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program and I would like to thank them and also the publisher, Hyperion.

2 comments:

  1. I teach a child with quite severe ADHD and I think it genuinely can have a big emotional wallop for the family and for the child.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Sam- I'm sure it does. There are some really good moments in this book where it is clear what both Ellison and Buzz are going through, especially in the beginning. The book just didn't have the sustained attention to the personal and the emotional that I expect from memoir as a genre. That's why I think it was more successful as a guidebook for parents with similar difficulties.

    ReplyDelete

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