Jessica Hendry Nelson | If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint Press)

Nelson’s memoir, although saddening at times, leaves us hopeful by the end.

 

 

Jessica Hendry Nelson’s memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions is a powerhouse of emotion. Right from the beginning, Nelson’s raw feelings spill out and bleed into the reader. Her writing is unapologetic, direct, and full of expression. This unapologetic writing is what keeps the pages turning.
 
Readers are dropped in memory after memory, starting in the 1990s and ending in 2012 and taking us up and down the East Coast. We take late night drives with Nelson, her brother Eric, and her father Jon, watching her father drink and pass a cigarette to his young children. We sit on the porch with Nelson, Eric, and their mother, Susan, as they smoke pot and watch the dogs burrow into the yard. We sit at Nelson’s paternal grandmother Cynthia’s feet, listening to her story of staying with her mother while she was pregnant with Jon. We are in between jobs with Nelson, working at another restaurant, doing cocaine with her bosses, and falling in love with Nick, the only completely positive person in her life. We are concerned about her father and later, her brother, hoping that they will get better in this rehab, that jail, or this hospital, only to know deep down that they won’t.
 
Nelson’s memoir, although saddening at times, leaves us hopeful by the end. She seems to finally be able to give herself precedence instead of putting herself second to her mother and brother. This development of what I can only describe as self-love allows readers to think that maybe things will start looking up for Nelson and Nick, and that they might be able to focus on their own lives instead of Nelson’s old life back in Philadelphia. | Jasmine Kille

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