Book Review: Coming Undone // Terri White

I have always read fiction novels and even when I branched out into non-fiction, memoirs were never my go-to genre. I suppose since I did not engage with the celebrity in question, often footballers or singers, I could not see the merit in reading about their path to fame or their childhood.

That is until Empire Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Terri White, announced her memoir Coming Undone. Finally, someone whose career I idolised. I could not wait to glean some secrets from her about a world I could only dream of entering. Coming Undone gave me so much more than I bargained for.

This is not a light-hearted tale of an editor’s upward trajectory, it is a complete exposure of the pain lurking beneath the surface. The result is a breath-taking and heart-breaking read that should not be overlooked.

Opening as Terri leaves a psychiatric hospital in New York City, we are given delicate footing for long enough to comprehend what has happened; a battle with alcohol abuse that she was not winning. The story then flicks between tales of drunken nights and blurry days in New York and a gut wrenching exposure of her childhood traumas.

We are lead through a life only half lived by a woman so driven by career and others perception of her that she has forgotten how to simply exist. White’s pain is palpable in every page. The short chapters and non-linear story telling perfectly complements the fragmented mind from which the story unfolds. At moments I had to put the book down and breathe because the agony emanating from her was too much to bare. However, within moments I would pick it up again just willing her to not only survive but to thrive.

There is no doubt that Terri is an excellent writer but Coming Undone surpasses anything previously written. Rarely are we, as a society, so willing to lay out the worst of ourselves for others to dissect but often this is the exact moment we begin to heal. There is not a neat bow at the end of Terri White’s story that ties up her pain in the past but that is not to say there is no sense of healing.

Her struggles may not be over but she has taken steps to free herself from that and in doing so taught the reader that even when things are darkest there is still a possibility of light. If you read one thing this year make it Coming Undone – preferably before they make it into a film as it is already being optioned. A fitting compliment for the queen of film critique herself.

Words by Danni Scott

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