The Existence of Amy

[gifted] Book Review: The Existence of Amy, by Lana Grace Riva

The author, Lana Grace Riva, reached out to me on this blog to ask if I would like to read her new book, The Existence of Amy, and review it.

I gladly accepted, so here it is! A short book review of ‘The Existence of Amy’ focused on existentialism, feminism and psychotherapy.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Read for: Psychotherapy. It is also interesting from an existential point of view.

This book was self-published just last year, The Existence of Amy is Lana Grace Riva’s second book.

The book follows the inner life of Amy as she experiences the world. Amy might look absolutely ‘normal’ from the outside, but she suffers from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and depression. Just a reminder to never take for granted that everyone is ‘just fine’ and that mental health issues and some disabilities are invisible.

Riva writes with ease and compassion for her character. She does not shy from portraying the mind just as it is – a messy affair.

Psychotherapy rating

I have to say this book has been a real revelation. I have met people who suffer from OCD before, but never have I had the privilege to get a glimpse into what it feels like to experience life through the disorder’s lense. It was eye-opening.

Riva is transparent and open to the experience. The protagonist, Amy, feels just like a friend, someone who is confiding all her inner workings to the reader and does so openly and clearly. At the same time, the reader will feel the struggle: Amy cannot really tell her friends (although some may suspect something) and cannot really say out loud that she suffers from the disorder.

We get glimpses of life ‘before OCD’ and just how terrible it feels to not be able to lead an ‘easy life’ anymore.

From the point of view of a trainee psychotherapist, this book has been highly informative but also incredibly insightful: it’s given me such a different perspective on life with OCD.

Now, everyone will have a different experience of OCD, but this is Amy’s experience and it is a valid one.

I felt immersed in her life and in the way she thought about the world and I could not put the book down at times.

Existentialist rating

Also from an existential point of view, this book is quite interesting, maybe mainly in terms of existential therapy.

In other forms of psychotherapy and in medicine, disorders are just treated with diagnosis, symptoms, pills and solutions, and sometimes we forget that there is a person experiencing the disorder in their day-to-day life.

What would it mean to share their world, even if only for a little while? I believe that this is what Amy really appreciates in her therapist Arthur, who seems to really care and want to understand.

This is a teaching that we can bring into our everyday life: instead of being afraid or uncomfortable around people who suffer from depression, or anxiety, or OCD, what would it mean to let them share their experience with us and to try to let ourselves feel compassion?

Feminist rating

From a feminist point of view, this book is quite relevant because it portrays the experience of a single woman trying to cope with OCD whilst maintaining a ‘normal’ façade and dealing with different kinds of men along the way.

Some of her colleagues treat her like a ‘mental case’, some try to save her with their love, whilst others treat her like an equal who deserves to be understood and helped.

Overall, I highly recommend ‘The Existence of Amy’ to anyone who would like to know more about what it is to experience OCD and depression. It’s a book that really comes alive.

WARNING: suicide is alluded to.

If you find yourself struggling with mental health, don’t suffer alone. I have written an article with some useful links about therapy.

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