When I stumbled on the title of this book, I was somewhat excited that this is not just my thing. I’m always that over-eager person who wants to please; the competitive overachiever who basically wants to outdo herself. It’s annoying most of the times, but I think Salie nails it with the moniker.
I started reading Approval Junkie on the plane en route back from London, about an hour after I had finished reading We Were Liars. Don’t get me started on that last book. Suffice it to say, I was clearly not its target audience. Faith Salie‘s book, on the other hand, offered a refreshing change to an issue that’s close to my heart. The book often reads like a set of disjointed self-reflective memoir-style essays, that are mostly punctuated by good punchlines but are also sometimes filled with cringingly personal details that had me feeling awkward for all the named real people mentioned in the book. I mean, they are all a google search away from an actual person with a face, you know.
Salie spends considerable part of the book writing about her (mis)adventures with her ex-husband, which apparently fed a big part of her need for approval. She refers to him as a “wasband” throughout, a name I found annoying, at best. The fact that the book spends so much time on this seemingly toxic relationship between her and ex-husband often had me thinking that the writing was some kind of cathartic, self-exorcism activity that I felt I didn’t need to witness. The personal details she divulges often made me feel uncomfortable, though the writing was good and kept me engaged throughout.
“All this happened at that age[…] when you think thrity is a big deal, and thirty-five equals a spontaneous hysterectomy, when you have to attend a wedding every month, and you fear being left behind by life.”
I found the accounts that dealt with her mother’s loss were the most honest and authentic — she captures the absence of a loved one in a way that connected well with me and read as less performative as her other, more scathing accounts that revolved around her ex-husband. By far my favorite chapter was one focused on her dad, called “Book Marked”. The stories that feature her parents have a starkly different tone to the rest of the book and were really enjoyable to read.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, fast read – especially if you’re the kind of person who seeks (implicit or explicit) approval on a daily basis. You’re definitely going to find yourself chuckling out loud, but don’t expect it to be a book you remember much about after a couple of weeks.