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Sadness and humor send author 'Crying in the Bathroom'

Erika L. Sánchez talks about her struggles with mental illness in her latest memoir.

Crying in the Bathroom.jpg
A new memoir from New York Times bestselling author Erika L. Sánchez.
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A little of this, a little of that, a lot of everything – seized fast.

That's what you want out of life: to taste what's here, sample what's there, to dip your toes in and hold it all. You don't want to miss a thing, and you grab whatever you can reach – until you find, as in the new book "Crying in the Bathroom" by Erika L. Sánchez, that happiness can be the thing that's slipperiest.

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For as back as she can remember, Erika Sánchez was sad.

Her family loved to laugh and she participated wholeheartedly; "Mexicans," she says, "laugh with their bodies" and she was no exception – but although that brought some respite from the sadness, the body she laughed in had self-inflicted scars. She constantly felt that her life was "bleak" and the weight of the world was on her back.

In school, she surrounded herself with "a gaggle of misfits" that wore desolation like badges. Sánchez, though, was a very good student and she dreamed of being a writer. She attend college and landed a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Spain, but she suffered terribly from depression.

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Except for Spain, she says: That was one of the happiest times of her life.

She dated while she was there, and fell in love but she chose all the wrong men – some married, some otherwise attached, some who were just not right for her. Back home in Chicago then, she landed a job she ultimately hated, and her depression roared back, only worse. She accidentally got pregnant and had an abortion, which she wanted but it sent her reeling. For the second time in her life, Sánchez entered a psychiatric facility.

"I've always wanted the impossible in my life," she says, even when getting it meant a lot of self-work. Patience would bring a Happily Ever After, but Sánchez had to learn to love herself first, because "How could I live my fleeting, improbably human life hating the vessel I came in?"

"Crying in the Bathroom" is a book that seems to imagine itself as very funny.

And it can be, although it's not a major part of the Big Picture here. Instead, there are moments that are so outrageously profane that you can't help but snort, and many paragraphs that will make you wish you were there, too, but hilarity isn't really its biggest feature.

Nope, the biggest and best parts are where author Erika L. Sánchez seems to stop quietly, staring introspectively, circling her finger around a half-full glass as a warning to readers that some serious stuff is coming, so stop goofing around and pay attention. Those are the chapters that include hard honesty about Sánchez's almost lifelong, brutally rough, hurricane-struggle with mental illness, pages that invite readers to ponder the ups and downs of life.

Strong warning: there's profanity in this book, and sex, and more profanity, and not a bit of it's out of place. If you can handle that, then "Crying in the Bathroom" is the next book to seize.

Book notes

"Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir" by Erika L. Sánchez from Viking is available through online booksellers and at Barnes & Nobel at Apache Mall in Rochester.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at bookwormsez.com or bookwormsez on Twitter.

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