“Lonely Lines” by Freya O’Brien

Lonely Lines: A Collection of Prose and Poetry

Freya O’Brien
Independently Published (2022)
ISBN: 978-1739793395
Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure for Reader Views (10/2022)

“Lonely Lines” by Freya O’Brien is a collection of poetry sharing one woman’s journey through a troubled home life and emotional issues in adulthood. The pain of heartbreak, the scary world of living with a mental illness, and the prison of addiction. The poems are written in consecutive order, starting from a painful childhood to an adulthood of healing and growth. There are also some poems in between about pregnancy and motherhood, but does not indicate if the author had a child shortly after she left home and endured painful relationships or if this stage of her life happened after she finds peace at the end.

The poems about how she grew up with an emotionally distant father were sad. They are very honest and hold nothing back. They show the pain she felt during this part of her life very well. I felt her pain as I read her words. I understand emotional neglect and how much pain it can cause, so I could empathize with the pain she felt. She expresses this pain in her poems with lines like “Why doesn’t my dad love me?/Why doesn’t he at least speak to me?” from the poem “Why” and “You taught me that love had to be earned./That I wasn’t wanted unless I was useful.” from the poem “All I Knew of Love.” When she is older, she leaves home and at first it’s like she is free of pain from others until she starts experiencing pain from men she falls in love with, like heartbreak and verbal abuse. It’s as though she can’t find a way to escape from being hurt by others, and it all takes a toll on her by pushing her off the deep end and into the clutches of addiction.

The poems about alcoholism were hard to read. Yes, I am five years sober now, but it was almost triggering. As much as I never want to go back to my drinking days, reading those poems just seemed to take me back to them. I had to keep reminding myself that I was just reading and not to think too much about how those poems made me feel. The author is very good at bringing those scenes to life. Her poems about heartbreak were real, and I could relate to them. Her poems about alcoholism were also real and I could relate to them. But I never want to experience either of those things ever again. (Reading these poems did not drive me to drink again. I had a chocolate shake instead!)

I really liked the poems at the last part of the book, though. They are poems about healing, overcoming the past, and learning to love yourself. These poems are a pleasure to read and a relief after reading such depressing and sad poetry. It was like coming out of the darkness and into the light. She talks about how she has learned that she can’t expect to find happiness or real love from others; she can only get these things from herself.

This poetry collection is a personal story of one woman rising from her pain and finding her own strength. While some of the poems may be hard to read, they echo a life that was hard to live. And at the end, the reader sees the reward she earns that was hard to fight for. Finishing this book was like surviving that struggle and the empowering poems at the end left a very satisfied feeling. It had me thinking that, yes, this woman who has been through so much in life will be okay. She knows how to cope with the things that were getting her down and throwing her into a maelstrom of pain and agony. She has survived, and she now knows how to keep surviving.

The other thing I liked about this book is the drawings included. They are in black and white, and some of them are really powerful; it was like they almost came to life right off the pages.

One may wonder why someone would publish a book of such painful memories. Why give such painful fragments of the past so much power by putting them into print? But by printing these poems, the author is not trying to give her memories of a sad past any kind of permanence, but actually to share with others what she has been through in order to let them know that there is a light at the end – just like the light that she finds at the end. Her memories and emotions are valid and she does not need permission or acceptance to share her story. Everyone is allowed to share their story and I am glad she shared hers. Sharing her story through poems, prose and her wonderful art is enough. This is her saying, “This is what I endured. This is what I survived. And this is what I have been able to finally heal from.” In her bio, it says that she “uses a pen and paper as an outlet on the darkest of days, to celebrate life, and connect with those who may be able to relate.” And I think that having that kind of connection is her way of letting other people in such situations know that they are not alone.

Would someone who has lived in a troubled home stand to benefit from reading this book? How about someone who is a recovering alcoholic, survived abuse relationships and struggled with mental illness? Is it okay for them to read this book of poetry? I don’t think it would cause any harm. If they are already out of that situation, perhaps they would feel a renewed sense of relief to have survived. Or maybe they can empathize with Freya in some way and encourage her to move forward, knowing that there is a way out if only she would keep going. She does, and the way out offers an ending that is beautiful.

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