Although the book’s branding is clearly aimed at women, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: ADHD According to Zoë is a book for everyone touched by ADHD.
Following a tightly-structured pattern of autobiography/consolidation of meaning/ solutions offered, Kessler creates a compelling read that deftly cycles between heart-wrenching, hilarious, pragmatic and spiritual.
When her diagnosis finally arrived at the age of 47, Kessler’s self perception was suddenly smashed to pieces. “I was now certifiably crazy. At least that’s how I felt,” she writes. “I always thought I had a good brain. Sure I had lousy social skills, was moody and impulsive, fought alcoholism, binge smoked, was constantly overwhelmed, had no career, and no money and changed boyfriends more often than I changed my socks but still I was smart –right? Didn’t my two university degrees, two college diplomas and writing and debating skills mean I had a good brain? The one thing I thought I had going for me was gone.”
From there, the chapter shifts into reflective analysis about her situation to this point, and lots of questions are asked: Why wasn’t she diagnosed as a child? Why hadn’t anyone detected her condition before this? As she begins the arduous process of disclosing her condition to various people in her life, she is sometimes surprised to learn that she isn’t as alone as originally believed. The remaining parts of the chapter offer a broad range of practical suggestions. The book’s 17 chapters all follow a similar model.
And those chapters cover a broad range of topics, breaking down the components of ADHD nicely in the process. Topics specific to ADHD, including impulsivity, inattentiveness, hyperfocus, disorganization, time management, and creativity are all addressed in a style that’s accessible and informative. Kessler frequently cites current research to back up her statements and tosses in some surprises when it comes to managing the condition.
Like a confessional songwriter, she is open and generously shares her experiences. Readers—male and female alike—will be able to relate to anecdotes involving failed relationships, lost keys, frequent job changes, being broke, lost, humiliated. And while they may not be able to relate to drumming and herbal remedies as possible solutions, there are plenty of other proposed suggestions—some, eyebrow-raising– that make up for it.
My one major quibble with this book is its conclusion: There is none! The final chapter, “Being Experimental” rattles off a nice battery of alternative treatments before closing with a funny line about broken legs, and then….nothing. I wish there had been a summing up at the end; some kind of synthesized wisdom to share– but instead, the book just stops dead in its tracks. The End. That’s it, there ain’t no more. It’s quite jarring, considering how taut and well-organized the material is.
That quibble aside, it’s nice to have the companionship of this breezy book that celebrates the crests and chasms of a life well-examined. ADHD According to Zoë offers a refreshing and reflective intimacy that flows forth like the discovery of a late and lovely spring.