Hall begins his self-published memoir by throwing you in the deep end, seeing if you will sink or swim through his story. I wanted to know how he became an Olympian and America’s Cup Sailor with Team New Zealand, but as I read, that first curiosity faded away and I became engulfed in the questions he was asking himself such as, “What are the right choices in life?”
Hall, who comes from America but lives in Auckland, gives a taste of his story for a few pages before he gives the reader a choice. He writes, “If you choose to be an artist, close the book. If you choose to be a pro-sailor, turn the page.”
That moment made me suck in my breath a bit, before I turned the page.
Hall takes you on a voyage with him, starting at Brown University in the United States in his twenties when everything changed in his life. Within a year he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and bipolar affective disorder, but those are just the hard facts.
Hall makes you feel the fear, hypersensitivity, confusion and lack of control.
“I was starting to apprehend the vague notion that not much made sense in my life anymore,” he writes.
You travel with him through the ever-changing split second decisions, ill health, family drama, and the overwhelming challenges he faces. He writes with raw honesty and humour about his personal story.
He wrestles with the concept of being a parent, what health is, understanding self-stigma and trying to find acceptance.
He writes, “I’m not asking you to accept my life. I’m begging myself to.”
I would recommend the book to anyone wishing to: understand themselves, understand mental health, and find more compassion for others and themselves.
Hall’s wife, Amanda, helps express the soul of the book in these words, “The only real achievement worth anything at all is self-knowledge and self-love. And from that, everything else follows.”
Reviewed by Kate Cherven, Communications and Marketing Officer at the Mental Health Foundation