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BOOK REVIEW: Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

| 20 February 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue

ECW Press
September 2018
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / Comedy & Humour / Humour Collections & Anthologies

55% Rocking

Anne T. Donahue’s debut book, Nobody Cares is missing a suffix. It should clarify that people don’t care “About the small stuff.” We all know that everyone cares about some things, that’s a given. This young, Canadian author is asking readers to reconsider how we think. To do this, she offers up her personal essays and newsletters, and these fashion new perspectives with varied results.

But over the last few years, I’ve realized a newsletter could be a journal that’s not a disaster – that it could be a place to work through my stuff by zooming out instead of zooming in Rear Window-style. I write essays and lists that help me work through my stresses (without having to dwell on a particular person’s tone on Twitter), and I vent about petty grievances so that I don’t scream them out of my car window at innocent passersby. My newsletter has become my therapy – in addition to actual therapy – and the people who read it have become like pals.

This book is like a hybrid between a memoir and a self-help book. Donahue uses her life as a cautionary tale. She offers up intimate anecdotes and uses these as a springboard for her own life lessons and advice. Most of what she writes is quite useful, but there are moments where she oversimplifies things and could inadvertently cause harm.

You already know what to do
Most of the time you don’t need advice. You know what you want to do, and you know what you’re going to do, and if you’re me, you just want people to validate the choice you’ve already made.
Give your gut feelings more credit.

There are some parallels between this book and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The latter packaged it and said it better, but both authors are unfazed by failure for one. They frame these disappointments into ways that it can benefit people i.e. through building resilience. The two authors also describe how liberating choice can be and the power of setting limits.

With age, I’ve come to embrace who I am. In my case, I am a person with a fantastic capacity for setting boundaries. More than I love saying yes, I love saying no. I love rescheduling. I love cancelling and being cancelled on. I take delight in declining Facebook event invitations. I love going to an uncool family chain restaurant with a best friend and talking shit for three hours, blissfully aware we will see nobody we know. I love not knowing what cool bands are playing a music festival I don’t care about and will never go to. Ultimately, I love not doing shit I hate. Freedom.

The biggest problem with this book is that it can be as messy as the author is herself. The essays are set into around twenty different chapters but there is no theme or order to it all. It can be hard to get a sense of Donahue’s life trajectory and the lessons she’s accrued over time because this often feels like a bunch of her articles and newsletters thrown together into one volume. This means that the good points she does make can get buried or lost at times. There are also moments when she introduces thoughts that should have been expanded on but are instead cut short.

Not every story has to make everybody laugh. Not every story has to make everybody feel fine. That’s what real life looks like: full of nuances and nonsense. At one point we’ve all been in a metaphorical park, crying about not getting a text back. At others, we’ve invested in what we assumed would be a life-changing candle. We’ve all needed help.
We’ve also always been interesting, with or without a diagnosis or a tragedy. I wish I’d know I was always enough.

This collection is a quick and easy read. The author uses profanities, which won’t appeal to every reader. The essays are short and she discusses her life’s highs and lows. She can be quite angst-ridden and self-absorbed, as she reflects on her life through her twenties and thirties. This might appeal to some readers more than others (like the people in this age bracket) because they may be experiencing similar stuff. There were moments where it felt like Donahue was ranting and rambling on a bit too much to make a coherent point.

Donahue gives her readers permission to say no to the things they hate doing. She also reminds us that some of the things we agonise over really aren’t that important. This will be a refreshing revelation for people who have a tendency to sweat the small stuff. This book proves that life isn’t easy and there isn’t one handy, little, one-size-fits-all solution to suit every person.

A lot of us are raised with a series of checkboxes we treat like stepping stones to a middle-class dream life: you graduate high school, graduate college, land a fulfilling career, find a spouse, buy a house, have 1.7 kids, and retire in time to spend thousands of dollars on a boat…
It takes years to unsubscribe to the myth that success looks a certain way and that the road to it is singular. I’m not sure if I’ll ever wear my lack of degree as a badge of honor rather than a chip on my shoulder. But no degree, no job, no person will grant you admission to the rest of your life. There is no one thing that can guarantee success or happiness, and life is so rarely a straight path. Which is a bit terrifying, but also freeing.

Nobody Cares is a pleasant debut book in which some essays hit the mark more than others. Donahue is frank in her depictions of failure, addiction and work, so some readers should relate to and take some things away from this. It may not be full of the most profound or original of revelations, but some people should find things that they can sympathise with. Which poses the question, “Who said nobody cares?”

Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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