Two Years of Wonder

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Two Years of Wonder: A Memoir by Ted Neill

Two Years of Wonder by Ted NeillStars: *****

CreateSpace (2018)
Memoir/AIDS/Africa/Mental Illness
280 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: September 25, 2012 Ted Neill picked up a knife to cut his wrists open and kill himself. Post hospitalization and treatment for major depressive disorder, he wrote Two Years of Wonder, a memoir based on his journey towards recovery. In it, he examines the experience that left him with such despair: living and working for two years at an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Nairobi, Kenya. Neill interweaves his story with the experiences of Oliver, Miriam, Ivy, Harmony, Tabitha, Sofie, Nea, and other children, exploring their own paths of trauma, survival, and resilience. In prose that is by turns poetic, confessional, and brutal, Neill with the children he comes alongside, strive to put the pieces of their fractured lives back together as they search for meaning and connection, each trying to reclaim their humanity and capacity to love in the face of inexplicable suffering and loss.

Two Years of Wonder

This book gave me a lot to think about. My opinions on the book changed from the first few pages to the rest as well. First I want to sate, this book is hard to read. Not because of big words or poor writing, but because of the topics Ted writes about. Children dying and not only dying, but suffering. HIV, poverty, abuse, discrimination and mental illness. The first four happening to the people of Kenya and the last one about himself.

I was a little unsure of the book at first because in the intro he states that part of the book is fabricated from interviews and stories from the children. I thought it was dishonest to write stories that didn’t happen in front of him like he was there and knew what happened. But as I read, I understood more and I loved it. I’ll explain more.

So some chapters are about his life after Kenya, suffering from mental illness. This is where he shares his story of how his depression came to be and how it progressed till he came to that day where he was holding a knife, and what happened after that. Some parts are written from what he remembers of dealing with the children at Rainbow House. These read like someone recounting stories from his past, which they are. He skips from child to child and back again, telling their stories of life and death.

The parts that are a bit fabricated are written from the point of view of a child he eventually came to know, using what they told him about their past before they came to him. So instead of saying “Sofie said that, Sofie said that, Sofie said that” he just writes it as a story using their memories of what life was like before he met them. After a while I realized that this made for a better read and a better understanding of what they went through. You get to imagine what they went through better because it’s written as if the kids wrote it.

I’ve read a lot of upsetting stories in books before but this book had me gasping and reading with a pained expression. It is NOT a happy book by any means but it’s still a good read because it’s written well and it’s captivating, you want to know what happens to each child. The book was written during the author’s recovery from depression and his desire to help the people of Kenya even though he had returned to the states. As such, proceeds from the sale of this book go to helping the people of Kenya.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.