Author’s luck leads to triumph, tragedy


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Some people seem to succeed without effort, while others appear to have all the worst experiences despite their best efforts.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/11/2021 (324 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some people seem to succeed without effort, while others appear to have all the worst experiences despite their best efforts.

In Any Kind of Luck at All, Mary Fairhurst Breen considers the role of luck in some of the most significant experiences in her life, from growing up in a family affected by mental illness to motherhood to the death of one of her daughters as she reflects on the ways in which people have been forced to reconsider their lives in the COVID-19 era.

Fairhurst Breen is a writer and translator, as well as the owner of a now-defunct arts business. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector, dealing with organizations working for social change in the community. She has written autobiographical stories for her daughters, which led to the publication of her first book, this memoir.

Family life can be difficult for anyone, but especially for someone dealing with multigenerational mental illness and addiction. For Fairhurst Breen, a difficult family heritage and a series of bad experiences balance with an ability to cope, together with the power to accept or fight various events in life, whether good or bad.

Growing up with a depressed and suicidal father was one of the obstacles the author faced as she attempted to deal with a family that was often barely functional. Childhood was a mixture of ordinary activities and unique struggles in dealing with the family’s legacy, while Fairhurst Breen was also forced to find her own ways of coping with her mother’s illness and early death. Involvement in social protests and a troubled relationship with her husband preceded the death of one of her daughters from an opioid overdose.

This defining event marked a transition in the author’s life, with the realization of the larger problems surrounding her daughter’s death — an epidemic of drug use and abuse in our society. Yet despite the many tragic events that she experienced, Fairhurst Breen also recognizes the presence of joy, including when she becomes a grandmother through her remaining daughter’s children.

Although many aspects of this book are tragic and the overall tone could easily have been depressing, the author intersperses the story with light touches, including when she mentions her wish to participate in a flash mob. Reflections on cooking and other daily tasks also help to lighten the mood, as does her reference to the saying, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all,” a concept captured in the title of the memoir. This luck is reflected in what she refers to as her “downward mobility” as she struggles to support herself with a series of ever-worsening jobs.

Any Kind of Luck at All is a very readable book, with family stories and anecdotes that help to illustrate the author’s points. Some readers might find it difficult to identify with some of her experiences, while others might find the story’s tragic elements overwhelming. However, the story still highlights the value of courage and resilience in a way that readers can enjoy. Overall, the book is a thought-provoking and entertaining memoir.

Susan Huebert is a Winnipeg writer and editor.

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