A story of chronic pain & bodies | Please Read this Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin | Book review

The Book: Please Read This Leaflet Carefully
Author: Karen Havelin
Publisher: Dead Ink Books
Pages: 212
Genre & Themes: contemporary, chronic illness, pain, bodies, women
Publication date: 31st May 2019
Rating: 5/5, GO READ IT!

I was absolutely thrilled to receive this book in the post from Dead Ink, after requesting a copy to review. The cover is absolutely beautiful, I (of course) love the vibrant yellow. This book was in my 2019 anticipated reads post, because I was JUST that excited to read it. The concept and themes immediately intrigued me when I read about it on Twitter, and it definitely lived up to my expectations!

Please Read this Leaflet Carefully is a novel told in reverse, flowing backwards from 2016 to 1995. It tells the story of Laura, living with Endometriosis, a long-term condition that can cause chronic pain. Each section works backwards as we learn more about her past, like you would if you were meeting someone for the first time.

As the story works backwards, we see how Laura has moved from Norway to New York, we see her get diagnosed, we see how chronic pain affects her life daily, and the effect it has on her relationships with family, partners and her daughter. The narrative is stunning and compelling as it opens a door for you to listen in on her life. It’s safe to say that I loved it.

I’ve never read a fiction book about a character who suffers from chronic pain, and now I definitely need to read more. The main character, Laura, discusses the misconceptions people close to her have about her pain, how it affects her life and her decisions. She also spoke a lot about how people judge the decisions she makes on the basis of her pain.

Hand with blue and pink stripy nail varnish holding up the black with white swirls French flaps of the book.

I don’t suffer from chronic pain, or a chronic illness, but my boyfriend (@thatfibrolife on instagram) does. He has fibromyalgia, which, amongst a range of symptoms, affects his mobility and cognitive function (he experiences ‘fibro fog’ which basically makes you really spaced out and not able to take anything in). It also affects his mental health, and of course on top of all that, he’s in a constant state of pain which varies day to day.

I try to be as understanding and supportive as possible, and listen to him when he explains what he’s feeling. Throughout this book, I kept bookmarking pages of it to show him and say “you’ll definitely relate to this part”. It’s an absolutely vital novel that allows readers to step into the life of someone with chronic pain, to demonstrate that it isn’t a simple black and white thing. Pain is complicated, and I’m really glad this book exists for people that can personally relate to it.

This book also shone a light on so many things, talking about not only chronic pain but motherhood, sexuality, bodies, passion, and relationships. The imagery of figure skating throughout was beautiful. I also loved that Laura didn’t state that she was bi, but she spoke about her past relationships with both women and men. I loved how it didn’t need to be spoken about as an issue; it’s just her life. (More casual queer rep done in this way pls!!).

Please Read this Leaflet Carefully was such a refreshing and honest read, depicting the reality of living with chronic pain, and the effect that has on your mental health, your body, and your relationships. Would highly recommend to everyone! Be sure to look out for it when it’s published!

Question: Do you have any recommendations for books which feature characters with disabilities, or chronic illnesses?

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