Book Review: Must • Girls • Love – by Sabrina Must

I’m going to start with a little background to explain how I came to read this book and review it for our blog.  Monni Must is an acclaimed photographer based in Sylvan Lake only 10 minutes from our studio, but we actually met her in Nashville, TN 3 1/2 years ago at Imaging USA – a huge photography convention.  We knew who she was and we were still very much finding our way and growing our studio in terms of it being our full time family business so we were really pleased to find her to be such a down-to-earth, kind and supportive lady.  We felt a connection with her right away and every time she has been in the mall since she has stopped in for a quick chat and an encouraging word.  We may be “competition”, but we’ve never felt “competitive” with Monni.

Book Review Must Girls Love

Why A Book Review

We also knew that Monni had suffered a family tragedy when her oldest daughter Miya took her own life at the age of 28 in 2007, but for a time we didn’t know too many details.  As fate would have it our son became very close friends with the grandson of Monni’s next-door neighbor and we ended up spending time at their house and Monni’s as well.  I hadn’t known that Monni’s youngest daughter Sabrina had written a memoir focusing largely on Miya’s death, and our mutual friend put us in touch about writing a book review.  I had been thinking about a way to highlight Monni on this blog – focusing on another photographer in the area whom we admire – and my thought was to base it on the books she has published with Sabrina about Holocaust survivors called Living Witnesses.  I knew that the Living Witnesses project had a dual purpose – to preserve the stories of the survivors but also to serve as a coping mechanism for Monni and Sabrina to deal with their grieving (I had read that on the Living Witnesses website).  I didn’t know Sabrina personally but we messaged each other and talked a little about Must • Girls • Love which has been released on Kindle and this seemed like a good place to start to gain some understanding.  I hope to follow this up with a “part two” to highlight Living Witnesses.  This is my first book review and boy did I get more than I bargained for.

The Story

Through the use of excerpts from Miya’s journal leading up to her suicide as well as Sabrina’s own journal entries from that time period and after, we are led through a harrowing yet riveting account of those desperate months.  Sabrina explains how Miya was a girl who struggled somewhere between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder most of her life, but makes it clear that this is not simply a tale of someone who was mentally ill and just went off the tracks.  The book details in Miya’s own words how the abusive nature and imminent failure of her brand new marriage gave her feelings of shame and failure that pushed her over the edge.  The family is left to try to make sense of it all even as Miya’s husband tries to maintain control over the aftermath basically rubbing salt in their wounds and prompting suspicions of what role he may have played in pushing Miya to her decision.  Sabrina goes on to detail her own very personal struggle, baring her soul about missing her sister and wrestling with her own demons along the way.

Thoughts on the book – I Am Changed

The phrase I used when I messaged Sabrina after completing the book was that it hit me like a ton of bricks – it had a huge impact on me unlike any book I’ve read since Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer.  I felt so much sadness and anger while reading it, and yet there is no doubt in my mind I am a better person for having read it.  As the father of a teenage daughter (and soon to be teenage son) it had the effect of helping me to count my blessings with my kids, my wife Ally, and the family I was brought up in as well.  I found myself being able to relate to many of the thoughts and feelings Sabrina had within her family dynamics with her sisters and her parents, and it was a good exercise.  Sabrina wrote in the book of the importance of “giving people the okay to open up, express their emotions, share their failures and learn from them” – and I feel the book accomplishes this.  Her style is masterful and her approach to storytelling in this book is astounding – weaving family history with journal entries in a way that keeps you buried in this book and unable to put it down.  The story is not told in a linear fashion but more in a way that is perfectly calculated to provide context for understanding the whole picture from one detail to the next.

I highly recommend this one and though I never met her I will never forget Miya – her story and Sabrina’s, and I applaud Sabrina for giving us this gift.

Here are the links:

Sabrina’s website

Must • Girls • Love – for Kindle on Amazon

 

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