Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Book Review: Love and Fatigue in America, by Roger King

*I've added a new review to my book review page.  The full text of it is also copied below in this post.

The author of Love and Fatigue in America, Roger King, is an English novelist and professor who emigrated to the United States in the early 1990s to begin a new professorship at Eastern Washington University.  At the time, he was getting over a relationship break-up and looking forward to a fresh start in America.  But within his first year in Washington, he came down with ME/CFS and was soon forced to quit his position at the University.  The rest of the book follows King's life in the United States over the next decade, as he migrates from state to state, trying to find love and at the same time battling ME/CFS.

Incidentally, as King explains in the introduction, the book is an "autobiographical novel," meaning that the majority of the book recounts true events in the author's life.  Whenever he's unable to remember details (often due to brain fog), he liberally fills in the blanks with his best and, sometimes, most creative approximation of the true events and/or dialogue.

I'm having a hard time writing an objective review because, frankly, I loved it.  In fact, I probably would have loved the book even before contracting ME/CFS because I've always found it interesting to learn emigrants' fresh impressions of America.  King frequently finds new ways to give the American reader a fresh, humorous perspective on the county.

Then, of course, King's musings on life with ME/CFS are instantly recognizable.  He has a way of summarizing the frustrations and paradoxes of life with ME/CFS in a way that will make any blogger (*ahem* myself) question whether there is anything new to say that King hasn't said better!  I began reading the book by highlighting all of the particularly quotable passages about ME/CFS, but was soon forced to abandon this when many pages were covered top to bottom in highlights.

King's prose is pleasing and rhythmic--almost spartan at times--as he employs short sentences that are easily digestible to the brain-fogged reader.  Few chapters are longer than 4 or 5 pages.  Occasionally he breaks from prose altogether to give us a short chapter in verse.  When I've seen this done in the past, it sometimes signals an author who is trying too hard to add "artistic merit" to their work, but King somehow makes it work.

If I were to find a criticism of the work, it would be that the 4th of 5 parts, entitled "Other States," in which King recounts a period of time where he wandered from state to state in a Jeep looking for his next home, seems disjointed and rushed.  Perhaps this was meant to mirror the disjointed feeling of that time in his life, but he loses the narrative thread.  In my opinion, the book would have been stronger without this section.

King is also quite frank about his sex life, which didn't bother me. But I can see how other, more sensitive readers might place certain passages under the category of TMI - too much information.

In my opinion, Love and Fatigue in America, should be on every PWME's to-read list.  It's the first and only book I've found that combines an interest in ME/CFS with a more general interest in good writing and entertaining storytelling.


  1. A good book about/by someone with CFS...I'm so happy to see this out there!

    Being a great spokesperson takes a lot of persistence and energy. So CFS by definition makes someone a poor spokesperson! The irony:(

  2. I also really enjoyed the book. I gave my copy to a friend and recommendeded the book to a few other friends so they could better know what living with CFS is like. I selfishly wish he had spent more time on the final road trip since I am also in a similar search for a new place to call home.

    I wrote a comment on facebook about how much I liked the book and someone forwarded it to Roger King. Not surprisingly, he seems like an incredibly cool guy. I have been slacking on this, but I think it would be helpful if we can all write reviews on goodreads and amazon since he isn't able to do the typical grueling publicity tours.

    (unrelated note: I seem unable to prove to google that I am not a robot.... Maybe I am a robot?)

  3. Have you read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey?

    1. David, I just now say this comment from over a month ago. No, actually I hadn't head about that book until two people in this comments sections recommended it. I definitely plan to read it now. Thanks.

      Hope you're doing well.

  4. Thanks for this review, Patrick. It's nice to see Roger's book receiving the attention it deserves. (He IS an incredibly cool guy!). While I don't have ME, I know many readers who do suffer have found LOVE AND FATIGUE both comforting and useful to share with loved ones. It is also a well-written book from a literary perspective.

    I thought you might be interested in this interview I did with Roger on my arts and culture website, Gwarlingo. There are some nice photos from his time in Africa and Asia. Here's the link:

  5. Sounds like a good read. The review reminds me a tiny bit of a book called The State of Me by Nasim Marie Jafry, just because that's also a novel based on/inspired by the authors life with ME. Although that book is about a girl in Scotland rather than an English professor in America, it has some of the similar themes of coming to terms with a life totally disrupted by illness. I guess its a universal theme! And I'd definitely second David's recommendation of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, its a really excellent book.

    1. Thanks Miriam. Now I HAVE TO read the Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.

      I hope you are doing well...been a while since I've seen you on the Kick. Hope to see you there soon. Take care,