Cover My Dreams in Ink
Apprentice House Press (2020)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (12/2020)
For anyone living in a particularly affected, opioid abundant area within the United States, there’s a high chance someone you know has been impacted by an overdose, addiction or other life altering effect of these drugs, whether that someone is a family member, classmate, or friend. However, if that person isn’t in your direct influence or vicinity your only experience is from the outside looking in. You may or may not be the person there daily trying to get them into rehab, or up at night worrying they are hanging with the wrong people again or that life’s pressures are beating down on them pushing them back towards poor decisions. “Cover My Dreams in Ink” provides the most intimate glance at what this life is like. Add onto that, Paul is an addict with learning struggles and mental health issues causing a trifecta of daily challenges. This memoir, published by Paul’s mother gives an inside point of view post-death, in a story unlike any other.
From the beginning, author Jessie Dunleavy chose her words carefully as she set out to tell her and her son’s story. If this precision was not immediately evident in her storyline and the details, it becomes adamantly revealed in her narrative surrounding her decision to publish Paul’s poetry works at the beginning of each chapter break as she describes her struggle to determine whether to maintain Paul’s spelling and poor grammar or correct it for the sake of the reader. The layout of this book holds similar detailed meticulousness, from placing a girlfriend’s Facebook tribute within the chapter their story plays out rather than in the post-mortem chapter, to ease the flow of the story, to the timing of his moves and prison sentences each memory and event is thoughtfully introduced and delicately placed within this memoir. The literary voice the author portrays within this debut writing are just another notable and astonishing feat, it is clear Paul’s way with words and talent came from his mother based on her skill and language she uses throughout this retelling of his life.
The emotions felt within this book were abundant. Sadness as Paul’s clearly evident talents sought means to escape his mind in ways his hands and body couldn’t allow. Awe at his talent for composing poems, so beautifully disbursed throughout this book. Pain for the suffering of all who loved him felt. Anger at the bad influences in his life and his own father’s distance. Empathy for his mother who had more patience and resilience than anyone I’ve ever met. And frustration at the systems of both healthcare and justice.
“Cover My Dreams in Ink” hit every note. I thought having lost my own friends to their addiction battles I would be prepared for this read, but I realized my own losses were so far outside the family’s scope that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend their struggles, successes, and setbacks. This book gives readers a powerful understanding of just one family, one mother’s experience, albeit an eye-opening and emotional one at that. Well written, well executed and ultimately one that ended too soon. This book is one that will stay with me well past the closing of the final page.