As an adult, Heather Sellers discovers that she suffers from a condition called prosopagnosia, commonly known as face blindness. She is unable to recognize people by their faces; while she can usually identify them by features such as hair, ears, and clothing, it’s never reliable and she runs into her own husband thinking he’s a stranger. With her condition as a guide, Heather can start to process her difficult childhood and her relationship with her parents, both of whom have issues of their own. More importantly, Heather’s diagnosis comes to provide more clarity for her life, giving her a better understanding of who she is and how she can deal with her condition.
I’d never heard of prosopagnosia before reading this book, but it sounds very difficult. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like not to recognize people I knew walking down the street, or introduce myself to someone I already knew at a party – it’s just automatic for me and, clearly, for the many people who told Heather, “Oh, I’m really bad with names too”, ignoring her very real condition. I could feel her frustration and her certainty that she genuinely had this problem and I was relieved when she finally got a diagnosis and could begin to deal with what she did have. There is currently no cure for face blindness, but letting others know about the situation seems to help.
Tied in with Heather’s modern day story is the depiction of her childhood, which was far from ordinary. Her mother appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic, while Heather’s father has issues that are never fully understood throughout the narrative. Her parents live separately and as a child Heather lives with one and then the other and back again, switching schools on a yearly basis and struggling to make many friends. Her success to PhD level and eventual professorship at a university is simply astounding coming out of that and she deserves a lot of credit for sticking to her education, even when her mother handed her job listings for secretaries and cleaning women.
I did find the stories of her childhood very hard to take, simply because her life was so difficult. I felt very bad for her but to be honest, I was also just more interested in her modern day struggles with her condition, her marriage, and the fallout from her childhood rather than the events itself. As a result the second section of the book, which moves more away from childhood, struck a deeper chord with me and had me much more eager to read to the end. I think that Heather’s childhood is essential to understand her problems as an adult, but personally, I wouldn’t have minded an entire book on face blindness.
You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know is a moving memoir on a condition very few people are familiar with. The author is a strong woman with a difficult past to overcome that readers will come to empathize with and even admire. Recommended.
All book links to external sites are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review from the publisher.