MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews The Inward Empire by Christian Donlan

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Inward Empire

Mapping the Wilds of Mortality and Fatherhood

by Christian Donlan

The Inward Empire by Christian Donlan X
The Inward Empire by Christian Donlan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Parenting is joy and Multiple Sclerosis is stress, and in the end it's not what you lose that matters but what remains.

Before things were an eternal mess, Christian was ordinary. He was a journalist, he was married, he didn't understand the six word joke a man walks into a bar. This joke, often repeated by victims of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), makes whimsical light of their very real symptoms, such as stumbling into doors and vision troubles.

In 2012, Christian wasn't yet one of the afflicted. He didn't feel odd and he wasn't burdened by an unraveling memory that seemed to be stitched to nothing. He had just purchased a 1930s cottage in Brighton, England that was in need of modernization, upgrading and erasing mold. And his wife was pregnant. It was later, when Christian was giving his newborn Leon a bath, that he noticed strange things. He had to search to find the doorknob. He felt a peculiar sensation throbbing in his chest. Prone to panic and anxiety, he thought he was having a heart attack but that was much too simple an explanation. He wasn't dying. Instead, his abnormal immune system was ruining his neurons; his brain's myelin – the sheath around the nerve fibers that controls the speed of impulses – were becoming damaged. Christian was living with a persistent intruder, a stranger that would not disappear.

At first Christian was treated for a vitamin deficiency and then, later, diagnosed with a swollen spine. But when his symptoms persisted – a farrago of surges down his spine that felt like a train running through his nervous system – he knew all was not well. He was clumsy, and his fingers felt odd. His voice quivered. He drooled. Years earlier, his brother Ben had a brain tumor. When Ben finally came home to recover, Christian was a witness to his anger as he came unglued. When Christian's MS was at its peak, when he was annoyed and cynical and bitter, when he couldn't feel his hands and walked outside with undone trousers, when he yelled at his toddler because she wasn't moving quickly enough, and when he sobbed, Christian was transported back to how Ben suffered. He began to feel like he was in a room without doors. He wanted to get out but couldn't and, instead, kept roaming around in circles. He was an accidental tourist in a country he could not stand but he was not allowed to leave. MS is an island that harbors lost men.

But fatherhood made it palatable. It was rewarding for Christian to nurture a child who needed him as much as he needed her. Because his sick brain was seeing strangers who were not there, he was better able to see the world through Leon's creative eyes, her healthy brain imagining purple cows. While she explored the world around her, he chose to be curious and courageous and explore this new world inside of himself.

If Christian's memoir can be distilled down to just one thing it is that a disease of the brain is practice. It takes time to understand and patience to learn to live with. The Inward Empire, Mapping Out the Wilds of Mortality and Fatherhood is exemplary because it is not the story of an incurable disease, but of a calamitous diagnosis making landfall within a family. Where does illness stop, and humanity begin? As Christian reflects on his health and vulnerability, he makes note of the emotional toll: with illness there can be the beauty of discovery along with the great peril. For him that means focusing on raising his beautiful child while living with an incurable disease. It's a credit to his skill as a writer and thinker that a memoir of MS isn't bleak. Bittersweet? Yes. Tragic? No. Full of wisdom? Yes, a ton of it – but then he is the son of a former monk. His story is of the daily persistence to not give in, an anthem for the sick.

Being a good father was Christian Donlan's dream come true. Being a healthy man, though, is, perhaps, only a dream.

Reviewed by Valerie Morales

This review is from the The Inward Empire. It first ran in the June 20, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free

Discover books that
entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Last Train to Key West
    The Last Train to Key West
    by Chanel Cleeton
    The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton received very positive comments from our First ...
  • Book Jacket: Tokyo Ueno Station
    Tokyo Ueno Station
    by Yu Miri
    Kazu is a ghost, seemingly condemned to haunt one of Japan's busiest train stations, the grounds of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Delayed Rays of a Star
    by Amanda Lee Koe
    Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star begins with a late-1920s photo of three women at a party in ...
  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Wedding Thief

The Wedding Thief
by Mary Simses

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.