Book review: Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream

Three of five stars

Clementine Pritchard, in a fit of determination, has fired her shrink, fired her assistant, and flushed her meds down the toilet. After decades of suffering with bipolar disorder, she’s through. She’s given herself 30 days to wrap up her affairs and then she’s taking her own life. Neatly. Cleanly. No fuss, no muss. And definitely not like her mother, who murdered Clementine’s sister and then herself with a powerful shotgun blast one black day when Clementine was a girl.

Throughout the next 30 days, one chapter per day, we follow Clementine — a denizen and bright light of the L.A. art world and beyond — as she sets things in motion and begins distancing herself from her life: she buys a cemetery plot, makes a suicide plan, writes her notes, makes arrangements for the adoption of her cat. She even manages to finish a new painting or two to leave behind as a legacy. She’s very focused, and so incredibly sad. The sadness seeps through every word, every deed, every action Clementine takes. She’s good at masking it, maybe even from herself at times, but the black permeates her very soul, colors her every thought, informs every piece of art she’s ever made. It sits on her shoulder and whispers in her ear, insidious, lethal, and inescapable.

The more Clementine tries to disentangle herself from the people in her world, though, the more they refuse to be disentangled. We — and Clementine — come right down to the last few days, unsure if everything is completely set…

Ashley Ream has done a splendid job depicting the thought processes of someone with a serious mental illness. Clementine is by turns funny, outrageous, bitchy, sweet, and angry. She drinks too much and has a history of other forms of self medication. She hurts, oh how she hurts, and I hurt with her. She’s beautifully written, beautifully created, and utterly real.

Lovely work, Ms. Ream. I look forward to your next novel.

Many thanks to Goodreads’ First Reads program for the opportunity to read this book.

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