All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir by Ashley Judd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For some reason, I've always felt a kinship of sorts to Ashley Judd. I'm not really sure that I can explain it but when I'd hear her interviewed, she always reminded me a bit of myself. I've always wondered what it must like to be the daughter of Naomi Judd and the sister of Wynonna! When I heard that Ashley was coming out with a memoir, I was very intrigued to get her perspective on her life and all of the work I had heard she was doing all over the world.
Overall, her memoir tells two stories - one is the story of her childhood and her recovery from depression, abuse and dysfunction. The other is the story of her social justice work around the world on behalf of PSI and NGO. I found myself connecting a great deal to the first story and less so with the second.
Much of her childhood abuse and dysfunction was written so eloquently in this book and I felt that it gave me some perspective on what has made Ashley Judd who she is today. I also realized what it is that I connect to with Ashley. She and I have a great deal in common. I found that I like and respect her even more after reading about her journey. She's come so far and made such a commitment to taking care of herself and healing. I think she is an amazing woman doing amazing things around the world.
Although I was engaged during the stories of her social justice work, it became a bit monotonous to me as the book moved forward. I learned a great deal about injustice and the state of women throughout the world. It was certainly enlightening and eye opening. I really admire this woman for putting her life and career on hold to do what she feels is her life's work - helping make the world a better place.
I never felt that the book was overly emotional or heavy handed. It all felt very real to me. I appreciated that she didn't try to 'fix' it all in the end, but instead, focused on how healing is an every day endeavor. As someone who struggles with depression myself, I appreciated her perspective on healing and growth. It gave me a great deal to think about and incorporate into my own recovery.
Although I can understand that her faith is critical to her daily life and recovery, and part of each and every thing she does, I did feel it became a bit 'too much' at some point during reading. I found that faith was interwoven into every single aspect of the novel, which is fine, but it wasn't as effective to me as it probably will be to people who are more interested in that sort of thing.
I believe that this book could have used a bit of editing which is part of the reason that it didn't get 4 or 5 stars. I just think that there was a lot of repetition that was unnecessary. The same story could have been told more effectively in a more condensed form.
I think this is a powerful memoir that has the ability to show the reader an inside look at depression, recovery, healing, social injustice and poverty. I feel that I came out of reading the book understanding myself and this world a bit more clearly. It is because of this that I recommend the book, particularly if you're interested in depression/recovery or social injustice. This book contains a powerful message that we should all hear again.
In the end, I feel that I've found, in Ashley's story, a kindred spirit. It's nice to know that there is someone else out there who feels so deeply and is finding away to use her sensitivity and thoughtfulness to help the world become a better place.
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