At first, Cory Martin tried to brush off the unexplained pain and tingling in her body as the protests of a worn-out body. After all, how could she not be tired when she was leading the ultimate single girl's life?
Martin was 28 years old, beautiful and living her dream job writing scripts and tie-in novels for the hit television show The OC. Her life was a constant whirl of activity -- socially and career wise. Something has got to give.
Still, the nagging pain never went away. Reluctantly, Martin subjected herself to an MRI.
The results was devastating. A few days before being "yet another bridesmaid" for a friend, Martin received news that she could have Multiple Sclerosis, a devastating and incurable disease that could land her in a wheelchair one day.
Her immediate thought was, "Who's going to want to marry me now?"
Refusing to give in to a supposedly grim destiny, Martin threw herself into the dating game while going through painful procedures such as spinal taps and scanning her brain to discover whether she really had the disease, and if she did, how far it had progressed.
Although I always make a point never to judge a memoirist's journey, I couldn't help but think that Martin's way of coping was probably not the best. After all, she was exposing herself to a game that was considered ruthless even at your healthiest.
So, I wince at Martin's many encounters, many of which make you doubt the goodness of the male species.
If I felt bad, Martin undoubtedly felt worse.
"I believed loving me was like loving a ticking time bomb," said Martin in the book.
THE BIG QUESTION
Many memoirs read like fiction. There's a hero, a quest with a prize in mind. So often, in the end, there's also a happily ever after. But as much as I would like to believe that memoirs should have a narrative arc like fiction, real life doesn't work that way -- something Martin understood from the beginning.
"When people hear you've been diagnosed with a life-altering disease, they want you to have this big 'aha' moment,'" said Martin.
Instead, the disease gave her the desire to "move forward". And so the book is written in this same manner -- one bad date leading to another, one medical test to another, without a discernible goal in mind.
In every memoir, there's a central question. Elizabeth Gilbert's famed Eat, Pray, Love is, "What on Earth am I here for?"
Love Sick's central question didn't seem clear for me, and I found myself asking repeatedly whether there was a point to Martin's story.
Towards the end, however, I concluded that Martin's question was: "Do I need a man to feel whole?"
Her MS was like a challenge imposed to her by the Universe. And perhaps that was why she did what she did -- to prove to herself that she was loveable despite her disease.
At the end of the memoir, we readers do discover the answer to that question as Martin arrive at a wonderful truth about her life. After her arduous journey through the brutal dating scene and medical system, you can't help but cheer for her.
I wished, however, that she spent had more time writing about how her life went after coming to that painful but necessary realisation. It felt like a brief addendum instead of a satisfying conclusion.
But true to her promise that all she wanted was to "move forward" and not do anything grand, Martin ended the memoir in such a way where the answer to the memoir's question is made murky.
In the end, there are no neat endings in Love Sick. Life is like that after all.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC copy from NetGalley