Amen, Amen, Amen
Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying (Among Other Things)
By Abby Sher
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781416589457, 320pp.)
Publication Date: October 20, 2009
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Until the age of ten, Abby Sher was a happy child in a fun-loving, musical family. But when her father and favorite aunt pass away, Abby fills the void of her loss with rituals: kissing her father's picture over and over each night, washing her hands, counting her steps, and collecting sharp objects that she thinks could harm innocent pedestrians. Then she begins to pray. At first she repeats the few phrases she remem-bers from synagogue, but by the time she is in high school, Abby is spending hours locked in her closet, urgently reciting a series of incantations and pleas. If she doesn't, she is sure someone else will die, too. The patterns from which she cannot deviate become her shelter and her obsession.
In college Abby is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and while she accepts this as an explanation for the counting and kissing and collecting, she resists labeling her fiercest obsession, certain that her prayers and her relationship with G-d are not an illness but the cure. She also discovers a new passion: performing comedy. She is never happier than when she dons a wig and makes people laugh. Offstage, however, she remains unable to confront the fears that drive her. She descends into darker compulsions, starving and cutting herself, measuring every calorie and incision. It is only when her earliest, deepest fear is realized that Abby is forced to examine and redefine the terms of her faith and her future.
Amen, Amen, Amen is an elegy honoring a mother, father, and beloved aunt who filled a child with music and their own blend of neuroticism. It is an adventure, full of fast cars, unsolved crimes, and close calls. It is part detective story, part love story, about Abby's hunt for answers and someone to guide her to them. It is a young woman's radiant and heartbreaking account of struggling to recognize the bounds and boundlessness of obsession and devotion.
Abby Sher is a writer and performer whose work has appeared in Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion and Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting it, Giving it, Loving it, Missing it as well as in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Self, Jane, Elle, HeeB and Redbook. She is also the author of the young adult novel Kissing Snowflakes. Abby has written and performed for the Second City in Chicago and the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and Magnet Theater in New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
"Abby Sher has written a beautiful book. It's deeply personal and original, but deals with the big issues we all struggle with -- faith, family, food, and of course, Neil Diamond." -- A. J. JACOBS, author of The Guinea Pig Diaries and The Year of Living Biblically
"Amen, Amen, Amen is Abby Sher's brave, haunting, amazing memoir of her lifelong struggle with OCD. But it's more than this -- it's an inspiring tale of a woman overcoming adversity, learning to trust herself, allowing herself to fall in love, letting go of her parents' complex legacy. For memoir lovers, it is a prayer answered. Told in the author's fresh, wise, witty voice, the book, at times, is impossible to put down. This incredible book makes for obsessive, compulsive reading." -- JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN, author of She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You
"Even if you've never had one obsessive thought in your life, which I highly doubt, you will find yourself in Amen, Amen, Amen. Fine, maybe you don't count your kisses or speak Hebrew or create elaborate anorexic exercise mantras, but I'm fairly certain you know what it's like to feel out of control, small, and unseen. Abby Sher's humanity, humility, and hilarity will make you feel less alone and blessed to be alive in this fragile world." -- KIMBERLEE AUERBACH, author of The Devil, The Lovers, & Me: My Life in Tarot
"Amen, Amen, Amen offers a poignant, pitch-perfect look at love, loss, danger, and redemption through the eyes of a young woman struggling with OCD. Abby Sher illuminates her fascinating story with insight, wit, and compassion, making for a compelling and powerful read." -- RABBI DANYA RUTTENBERG, author of Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion
"Amen, Amen, Amen is a memoir of a girl's broken heart -- and all the absurd, funny, and oh-so-sacred pains Abby Sher endures to pick up the pieces and walk them silently home. Tender and lovely." -- BARBARA ROBINETTE MOSS, author of Change Me into Zeus's Daughter