The Shell-Shocked Love of Irritable Hearts

We all have those days where things just set you off and you get anxious, angry, or sometimes a combination of both, but typically we know what triggered it and realize that it ultimately wasn’t a big deal. For Mac McClelland, who’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this seemingly constant loss of control over herself is the crux of her memoir, Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. 

McClelland, a human rights journalist, traveled to Haiti to cover the devastating aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. While in Haiti, McClelland simultaneously experiences one of the worst and one of the best things in her life: a horror that catalyzes the onset of her PTSD and meeting Nico, a French soldier who instantly takes up a spot in her heart. Irritable Hearts is her recollection of her experiences with PTSD, as they were brought about and how she, and those around her, helped her through her bad days and negative self-perception, coupled with more generalized information about PTSD.

Dense with valuable and important information for those with PTSD, those caring for someone with PTSD, or the otherwise unaware general populace, Irritable Hearts provides perspective into one of the generally unseen disabilities that many suffer from; however, as a text, it was rather frustrating and choppy as the memoir began in a more narrative fashion and became more textbook-y in language usage and tone. If it were to have gotten textbook-y gradually, it wouldn’t have been as bad, but there was a shift early on where it rather abruptly went from narrative to an unloading of factual information, then back to the narrative. It was jarring to rapidly move from one type of writing to the other. Memoirs are a rather tricky beast in which to strike a balance between providing entertainment as well as information.

Overall, I’d give this a 3 out of 5 stars.

One comment

  1. DebraB · March 7, 2015

    I agree with your review. The book contained great information, but something about the style of writing didn’t work for me. Your points about the shift from narrative to exposition make sense to me. I couldn’t quite get a handle on the organizational strategy she was using.

    Liked by 1 person

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