top of page
  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

In what must be one of the most moving memoirs of the year, Stephanie Foo explores her own diagnosis of Complex PTSD - or C-PTSD, not to be confused with the more common PTSD - from years of trauma at the hands of her parents while growing up.

Stephanie Foo is a recognised radio producer and journalist and her writing has that journalese style to it that makes it wonderfully easy to read and understand - even the more medical jargon sections. Growing up in what must have been such a challenging environment had led Foo to struggle with some everyday things that those of us who have not experienced such hardship can only begin to imagine.

She recounts some of the incidents that led to her diagnosis, and explores some sequences from her childhood that are truly horrifying. Foo gives the graphic details taking on that journalist persona and removing much of the emotional connection and connotation. In doing so, the whole experience seems removed, or unreal.

In addition, it has to be said that the cover of the memoir is beautiful. Like the cover, the whole story has flourishes of beauty, both in the language and the moments of joy at some of the events such as her success at university, her returning to her home town, and her marriage.

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is often diagnosed for those who experience a short burst of very challenging environments - such as war, or a criminal act. However, Complex PTSD differs from the standard PTSD in that it stems from long and arduous environments - like Stephanie Foo’s highly unorthodox relationship with her parents. There is not a lot of literature on the complaint, so the memoir is part exploration of her history, and part investigation into the diagnosis.

Some moments in the book are hard hitting and involve violence towards children. While these moments are mostly emotional or psychological violence, there are also some physical moments too which are difficult to read. It does, however, help the reader to understand and connect with the plight of Foo’s childhood.

Overall, this is a really challenging but enlightening read. It is actually an uplifting read as the mental fortitude of Foo comes through strongly. Her bravery and strength as well as her resilience are things to be celebrated. Truly a wonderful story.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Allen & Unwin


bottom of page