Photo of Marianne Power by Mar Smith
Marianne Power’s Help Me! is the funny and unfailingly honest account of one woman’s year-long quest to find out whether self help books really can change your life.
Journalist Marianne Power felt in a rut, so she turned to some self-help books. In fact, she embarked on a mission to apply the ethos of one self-help book every month for a year. The result is Help Me! One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life (Grove Atlantic), equal parts hilarious, sad and thought provoking.
To begin with Power’s descriptions of her experiences are tongue-in-cheek and slightly knowing. She celebrates some successes making the first few chapters an entertaining wheeze.
There were three speeches before mine. First up a fabulously surreal one about a custard cream factory at war with the Jammy Dodger manufacturers.
Soon, however, the combined effect of the frequently conflicting advice offered by multiple self-help books begins to affect Powers’ emotional well being. She starts to feel unstable, and this is where the true strength of her writing lies.
Glossing over such a hugely tumultuous impact would have been the less messy option, but Power chooses to be frank. Laying bare her struggles, she details the tension brought to bear on relationships and ultimately the breakdown of her closest friendship.
For three days I lay on the synthetic yellow bedspread feeling like I was falling, falling, falling.
It would be easy to write Help Me! off as a lightweight book, but so doing would be a disservice. It’s cliched, but nevertheless true that it made me belly laugh and brought tears to my eyes.
Marian Power’s humour, humanity and honesty make her book a fantastic read.