Snowflake Obsidian by Sage Steadman: Book Review

Title: Snowflake Obsidian: Memoir of a Cutter

Author: Sage Steadman

Genre: Memoir

Snowflake Obsidian is a very honest book, ‘beautiful and sincere’, as the main protagonists are. It is the story of Willow, her seemingly picture perfect life with her relationship and identity issues forming a backdrop. My ‘word’ for this book is ‘Redemption’ which is what I felt when I closed the book, having read it in a few breathtaking swoops.

The Book Blurb

Willow’s your basic potty-mouth Mormon hippie with anger issues. Despite her parents fighting, her life is seemingly perfect. She has lots of friends, little responsibility and a stunning collection of sequined pillows. But everything changes when she and her best friend fall for the same guy. River is sexy, mysterious, and likes to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But there is something more behind his troubled jade eyes that draws Willow in. Relationships are tested and Willow ends up friendless and alone as she navigates the rough waters of a fiery first love. Soon, the illusions of her perfect world crumble and Willow must reexamine the beliefs that once built her rocky foundation. This quirky coming of age story follows Willow and River’s unlikely romance as they battle their own inner demons and struggle to find themselves and their place in the adult world.

Review

Willow describes herself as a Mormon Hippie who has a wonderful life. She has a good social circle, with a loyal gang of friends who seem to be hanging out with each other forever. Heck, they even have regular sleepovers, drifting in and out of each other’s houses without much hesitation. Parents or any kind of adults are strangely absent through these interactions. Even when these teenagers/adults face aggravated conditions like sexual assault, drug use or mental health issues the adults are in the background, sympathetic but not really playing an active role in their children’s lives.

The protagonists are on their own mostly, with their doubts, insecurities and identity issues, looking for guidance and support through their friends. And yet, this is the chronicling of a different kind of struggle where the protagonist, Willow, reaches the end, not just ‘whole’ but positively glowing.

Snowflake Obsidian touches on the difficult topics of drug use, depression and self harming behaviour like cutting oneself and dies do with a great amount of sensituvity. I had expected to feel repulsed by the cutting but I felt a lot of sympathy towards the main characters. Therapy is mentioned in some detail and the entire process of healing through thinking, understanding, analysing and getting there takes some time and false starts but they get there, the protagonists do.

In the middle of all the teenage angst, multiple relationships and manipulative people, is a light of rare sensitivity and beauty, through art, through genuine expression and the voicing of deep felt emotions.

I was intrigued by the name of the book and when the stone, Snowflake Obsidian takes an important place in the book, I had to look it up. It is a rock, used for healing purposes to help balance body, mind and spirit. Willow keeps this rock with her all the time when she is in the depressive phase of her life and trying to find balance in her emotions.

Even though the language is unpretentious and casual in places, the narration is never rambling. The pacing is also good, with short and long chapters, which move the story forward fast.

In midst of all the teenage-and-beyond troubles, there is real beauty of expression and language.

“I … realised that loving was easier to do than not loving, and not loving only led to suffering.”

The redemption of the book is not just about messy relationships and getting back to a place of love. It is also about self acceptance and openess.

There is also a quirky sense of humour, an ability to laugh at oneself.

“Every thought I had came with its own editorial on the subject. As if I had my own gossip column running in my head, complete with wild assumptions, scarring opinions, diluted facts and unwavering criticism.”

And then, there is the peanut analogy that kept getting funnier with each unpeeling layer.

Verdict

Don’t miss this gem of a book. Snowflake Obsidian is a real book with real issues and it shows the way to light and peace.

I heard them say

Two conversations come to my mind when I think of the influences that shaped me. I was not a participant in either of them. Rather, I was a shameless eavesdropper. The conversations stayed with me for a long time. I turned them around in my mind dozens of times exploring new angles and arriving at different conclusions.

Time is a strange entity. I was never at peace with it. I always had trouble structuring my days. I dreaded clocks and calendars. Any time I was asked to plan for the future, I broke out in a sweat. Planning for the next five or ten years made no sense to me. I could not think where I was going, what were my goals and how I would reach them.

But these conversations morphed in my mind into something personal. These fragments became my compass in times of doubt. Time still is unmerciful to my mind but nostalgia colours events into something more comfortable.

The first conversation that affected me deeply was when we were vacationing in the hills. I, now, live in the hills and often think back to that time. There was a bend in the road with a couple of small shops. We stopped at one to buy batteries for the camera. And then, there they were, in the patch of sunlight peering through the dense tree cover. An elegantly dressed young woman with a much older man. My adolescent self caught a snippet as they walked by. She was talking about a recent law and order event and how the situation had been brought under control. She was confident and articulate. He looked every inch a man of the world, attentive and captivated.

That brief scene became the inspiration of my endeavour to change myself into an intelligent and articulate person. Where once I was scared of the future and of any kind of planning, now I credited the young woman for shaping my personality.

The second important conversation occurred at a railway station. This was much later in years when I had bid adieu to my tumultuous teens. I felt I had a mature understanding of matters. Still, I struggled in my relationships especially with my near ones.

At the station, dusk was falling and the chatter of pigeons beneath the sheds was loud. The platform teemed with people. Normally, I find railway stations romantic, with whiffs of adventure and uncertainty hanging in the air. It was here that Anna had met Vronsky (I had read Anna Karenina by Tolstoy at age 16). But, this day, time was heavy on my hands. Having visited my family, I was travelling back to my workplace. There had been misunderstandings and altercations.

I stood next to a group of well dressed young men. I could see they were siblings, come to see off their youngest brother. He looked sullen. And they started talking. I heard the eldest talk about their parents and the perceived favouritism. They talked of the simmering resentment within the family. They talked of the unmet expectations and the fractured relationships.

Listening on, I could put my own relationship with my parents in perspective. I could then understand that strife was a natural part of all families. But love had the power to bind. I mended my relations at home having learnt that lesson.

At some level, both conversations had affected me deeply at crucial times in my life. I came away learning from them. It worked better than a heart-to-heart talk.

The Mistakes I Make Daily

I make mistakes all the time. I rarely admit to making them, though. But, there are a few that I need to owe up because they undermine the quality of my life on a daily basis.

The #1 mistake I make daily is not to pursue happiness. Yes, I do need to pursue happiness actively on a continuous basis. This is the choice I have made for myself.  Many of my actions and behaviours are directed towards this goal. Yet, sometimes I feel that happiness is elusivse. To really feel happy, the approach has to be inside-out. To gain happiness, I have to create happiness through positive thinking and by fulfilling my potential. Many times, in my unguarded moments, I let negative emotions like anger, fear, resentment, guilt overshadow what could have been my good moments.

The #2 mistake I make is not building on relationships. There are people in my life who are very dear to me but these are the same people I neglect because I take them for granted. I need to invest in my relationships for a fulfilling life.

The #3 mistake is swapping the long-term goal for the short term. Sometimes, I focus solely on the day and what it brings, reacting to each and every situation and exhausted in the end.I go in for instant gratification rather than think about my goals over time. Instead I need to be more proactive towards my day, taking things calmly and using my judgement to negotiate the rough curves.