TWO YEARS OF WONDER
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau for Reader Views (12/19)
“Two Years of Wonder” is an autobiographical account based on author Ted Neill’s recovery after hospitalization for major depression and an attempted suicide. In this book, he explores his time working in an orphanage for children afflicted with HIV/AIDS, an experience that left him emotionally raw and despondent.
Neill describes depression with a blunt honesty saying, “My self-esteem eroded, replaced by a toxic self-hate that grew into self-loathing. It was amazing how effective my own mind was in crafting arguments about my own abject failure and utter worthlessness” (Neill 57). He holds nothing back as he guides his audience through both his descent into depression and his recovery. Neill’s account of his experience is heartfelt, and the reader can tell that a lot of hard work went into this book.
The other half of “Two Years of Wonder” chronicles several stories featuring children with HIV/AIDS. Their stories are told in snapshots woven together into one larger story, painting a picture of Neill’s time in Africa. He does an excellent job of balancing many different points of view into a single cohesive narrative.
“Two Years of Wonder” is not an easy book. It covers dark topics in detail. Neill is respectful of the daily struggles children can face in Africa, but that doesn’t make the stories of abuse, homelessness, and the inevitable knowledge that not everyone can be saved any less difficult to read. Without any beating around the bush, he says, “I feel guilty. I just feel unable to accept their suffering from my place of comfort” (113). Neill makes this observation during a conversation with his therapist after he returns home and enters treatment. He doesn’t shy away from telling the readers how this kind of work can cause long-lasting, traumatic effects on the psyche.
Ted Neill’s “Two Years of Wonder” is a special kind of memoir. It follows a long, meandering journey through Africa, depression, and treatment for recovery. Neill says exactly what he means, even when it can be difficult to hear. As he looks back and reflects on these events in his past, he ends the book with a very simple message: You may not be able to save everyone, but who you can save in the moment matters.