With each new piece Febos bends time. As she explores her past, recalling her brother’s struggles with mental health or her family’s trip to Egypt to visit her sea-captain father, she builds on the story of her fraying relationship with Amaia, with each essay serving as a foundation for the next ... For me, some of her most resonant passages come in the first essay, 'The Book of Hours.' Shifting through different parts of her life, Febos describes the shelter she has always taken in stories ... No subject is off-limits to Febos. She authorizes her reader to be braver, to dig deeper into their own secrets and to research those secrets in history. It is the act of keeping secrets that is dangerous, not the act of telling them. Confession is freedom. In combining research with her narrative, Febos is staking claim to her own existence.
The essays leap back and forth in time, overlapping to create a Venn diagram that gradually reveals a complete picture. At the point where the essays meet sits Febos herself, a woman willing to confront challenging questions about her life with openness and honesty ... What is most striking about this collection is Febos’ ability to hold many moments of her own life in conversation ... Febos’ writing is unflinching, and her willingness to delve into her darkest corners avoids becoming overwhelming only because she handles it with strength and delicacy. Abandon Me finds the universal in her own story and taps into many people’s fears, pushing the reader to question what they might abandon themselves to or let themselves abandon.
Somewhere in this dramatis personae there’s an interesting story, even a compelling one, given how it crisscrosses so many ethnic and social lines of American history. Febos is a talented writer with a colorful personal history, but her short scenes and forced juxtapositions leave readers yearning for more connections and continuity. Why does Febos feel as she does? Poetic technique, allusions and cultural references can’t bolster rather ordinary experiences: loneliness, bad romances, throwing up ... Febos’s best writing is unmediated: 'My story did not include regret until thirty-two,' she writes, when 'I came to truly know my own fear.' Or, describing the moment when she meets her birth father: 'My stomach clenched. Like a hovering wasp, his nearness made my shoulder smart.' Here are real, lived experiences, and we gobble them up.Abandon Me is a step up from the lurid Whip Smart, because Febos links her self-investigation to larger adult concerns of family obligations and healthy loving. But her 'bad girl' image still prevails.