cover image I Can Fix This: And Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child

I Can Fix This: And Other Lies I Told Myself While Parenting My Struggling Child

Kristina Kuzmič. Penguin Life, $29 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-65333-3

In this affecting memoir, Kuzmič (Hold On, but Don’t Hold Still) recounts supporting her teenage son through a severe mental health crisis complicated by substance abuse. She assumed that her eldest son, Luka, was going through the normal pangs of adolescence when he became withdrawn around his 13th birthday, but over the next two years he started lashing out at teachers and family and self-medicating with painkillers and alcohol, leaving Kuzmič feeling helpless and searching for answers. Recalling her agonizing attempts to get professional help for Luka, who was eventually diagnosed with clinical depression, ADHD, and generalized anxiety disorder, Kuzmič discusses pained conversations about her son’s suicidal ideation during joint therapy sessions and the difficult decision to temporarily place him in a residential care facility after a violent outburst. Kuzmič’s candid reflections plumb the intricacies of parent-child relationships, as when she describes realizing that her tendency to view Luka’s problems as a negative reflection on her parenting was hampering her ability to “genuinely listen and empathize.” A poignant concluding chapter written by Luka explains his mental health struggles in frank detail (“I took out my anger on the people I love the most because I knew they wouldn’t leave me”), before arriving at the hopeful conclusion: “Life gets better, but we have to put in the work.” Readers will be moved. Agent: Anna Sproul-Latimer, Neon Literary. (May)