This Voyage of a Lifetime is the third book in the Learners at Love trilogy by Melody Finch of Caramel, Learner at Love. The books revolve centrally around Annabelle Grainger, her husband Robin, and her close friend Chris. The story is told from a third person objective point of view, but the three main characters are very vulnerable with one another in the dialogue, so the book is very emotion-rich.
Mental health is much more of a focus in this book than the previous book. The spotlight is on Annabelle’s struggles with borderline personality disorder, but several other characters’ mental health issues come up as well, including a history of suicidal thinking.
After a tragic accident, Annabelle engaged in significant self-harm, and the book follows her through some time spent in hospital, adjusting to the community crisis team, and then meeting a new therapist. Her new therapist Maggie was quite the fun character, and came out with pull-no-punches lines like “One day you might blow your fuse, murder your husband, and end up in prison for life.”
Annabelle’s father-in-law demonstrates many of the common stigmatized attitudes around mental illness. When visiting her in hospital, he told her “This needs to be nipped in the bud Annabelle. It’s obviously a sign of emotional weakness. You need to man up and deal with your emotions strategically.” I was quite prepared to jump through the screen and smack him upside the head.
A number of things come up for Annabelle that a lot of people with mental illness deal with at some point. She struggled to accept her diagnosis and the idea of being reduced to a label. She also had to make decisions around treatment, and expressed common worries about the prospect of taking medication.
A number of new characters are introduced in this last part of the trilogy, including one who provokes jealousy in Annabelle. Mel has mentioned already that she’s interested in pursuing the stories of some of those characters, so I’m guessing we’ll be seeing some more books in the future.
As with the previous two books, the characters are very likeable, and the dialogue effectively captures what the characters are working through on their learning journey. It’s a delightful read.
This Voyage of a Lifetime is available on Amazon.
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