I was attracted to this book by Shelley Mackenney because the blurb says it is about how Shelley chose to go missing and live anonymously and the momentous choice to get in touch with her family again. This is unlike the other books I’ve read, which were about how girls got abducted and rescued.

There are twenty chapters –

  1. Leaving – recounts how Shelley woke up one morning and decided she was not Shelley Mackenney any more, after years of feeling unwanted, unloved and lonely, isolated yet under claustrophobic protection from her family
  2. Trauma – how she developed onopmania (shopping addiction), depression; her paranoia and panic attacks and how she was living in an invisible prison
  3. New Life – how she was emptied of all emotion (no fear, no guilt, no  hate, no love)
  4. The Refuge – three months in which she came close to cannibis, crystal meth, heroin, amphetamine, angel dust, all kinds of alcohol and violence
  5. Stripper – another of the catalogue of incidents that happened to her; her pride and self-respect
  6. Abducted – how a missing girl on her own is fair game for any pervert or criminal
  7. Homeless
  8. The Streets
  9. Survival
  10. The Flat – Chpts 7-10 show her surrounding bareness and the absence of any emotion; an empty shell with no personality and no conflict and no love
  11. Working girls
  12. Pregnancy
  13. The Unit – Chpts 11-13 show how she got away from the clubbing and drug-taking and how she realised she hadn’t had it so bad and started to be thankful for the good things in life
  14. Mother – questions, questions and questions about her own mother and no answers
  15. Alyssia – how, without a doubt, her daughter saved her from herself
  16. Moving Again
  17. Cancer – severe dyskaryosis; Chpts 16&17 show how she worries about her daughter and how she felt more and more that she was lucky to experience each day, each hug and heartache, each smile and sigh, each thrill and tear
  18. Family – because she felt so protective of Aalyssia, she had a deeper understanding of her grandma’s and dad’s protectiveness over her, and decided to make contact
  19. Nan
  20. Writing – how she helped her Nan (grandma) write her memoir, Borstal Girl, which became a bestseller; how she made a documentary about missing persons and came to write this book

Epilogue – She has learnt how to appreciate things and be thankful, instead of always feeling empty and disconnected. She looks around and sees all the good and wonderful things that cost nothing. No matter how bad things are, there’s always sosmeone worse off – having it harder and tougher – suffering their own personal misery. She has learnt how to forgive herself and stop beating herself up for past mistakes, learnt to live with the issues when younger, know how they affect her and how she can cope with them. Life is a work in progress; things happen every day: feelings surface, problems occur, mistakes are made, but they can be turned aroung and made positive by pragmatism. Happiness is there for those who know where to find it. Things are not so terrible and there’s nothing that can’t be overcome by love and time.


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