Review: How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

How to Murder Your Life is a memoir written by Cat Marnell, a woman who was a beauty editor at one of America’s major women’s magazines while also being addicted to prescription drugs. I was laughing right from the start because of how Marnell made me view her 2009 self barely two pages in. I mean, how often do you meet people who walk around with shards of glass in one of their feet and who, despite being advised to go see a doctor about it, shrug it off like something as hole-in-corner as a rainy day?

Caitlin Marnell grew up in a five acre “Shangri-la” property in a privileged neighborhood not far from the White House with her parents and two siblings. She had a childhood filled with family fights. And an older sister sent off to a mental hospital. A teen with ADHD, she grew up to become a beauty editor at the Condé Nast building in New York. One day at the Cirque du Soleil, she caused a major scene, and was “escorted” out. She was supposed to be representing Lucky, the magazine she worked for, but that night didn’t end well. This story explores the self-destructive path Marnell had been on even after getting her dream job.

After the whole embarrassing Cirque du Soleil deal, the author decides to go back and take readers through her formative years, beginning innocently from when she was a little girl and right through all the shouting in her house, losing her virginity at fifteen while drifting in and out of consciousness, her “Selena and Justin” relationship during senior year, and so on. By the time she is grown and working her dream job she has developed an almost insatiable addiction to prescription drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall as well as illegal drugs like crack and heroin.

Chaotic is the word that comes to mind when I think about how the author describes certain places and scenes. Chaotic and like a laborious chore because it’s almost as if you can hear the author breathe a sigh of relief once she’s done with a descriptive paragraph. The author scrambled to describe things sometimes and obviously used any word that sprang up in her mind. “From above, it looked like a… pinwheel, okay?”

As well as the author reveals her personality through her slipshod narrative style, the author also tends to veer too far in one direction or another. There were a few times when I wished a paragraph would just stop already because some added information didn’t need to be there. Her writing perfectly fits the mold of a party girl and it takes a current or former partying type to fully enjoy the writing. Some readers will definitely find themselves confused sometimes and having to reread something to get back on track, but after a while, you do get used to the writing Her sense of humor is a major strong point which can hit you when you least expect it and make you laugh your belly sore for five minutes straight. “Forty minutes later, we were deeper into the matrix than Keanu Reeves, and we stayed there all night.”

Being a memoir and all, this book is full of interesting characters to meet. Such as Greta T., the first real party gal that the author ever met who the author goes on further to describe as a “sinister combination”. Greta T. is quickly out of the picture, however, and before readers know it, the author is all grown up, and all these people we learn about in the author’s adolescent years are slowly forgotten before we can truly bond with any of them.

Marnell’s internship phases offers us a chance to meet other people in the field of beauty editing from different big name magazines and I liked seeing all the lessons she was taught during her journey towards becoming a beauty editor. She does a lot of running around at first, but her determination while interning despite the low pay should serve as an example for those who find themselves in a point in their careers where they see themselves going nowhere fast.

Eventually, Marnell goes on to work at Lucky and becomes in charge of interns herself when she becomes beauty assistant. This is where we get to know Jean-Godfrey-June, a big Condé Nast figure whom the author tends to refer to as JGJ as well as what it’s actually like to be to work for one of America’s top women’s magazines. At this point in the author’s life, there’s little in the way of romance save for a fellow drug user named Marco. The only real love in the author’s life seems to be the pills. Marco is a guy that readers will definitely struggle to like because he causes Marnell a lot of grief yet keeps popping up. Even the author becomes unlikable because at times for always seeming to end up back at square one with her pill usage, but there are times, such as the time when she teaches Marco a little lesson, when she impresses the reader.

I often became annoyed because the author mentions drugs so much that I wondered if this was the only thing she could focus on in this book. The rehab phase that the author goes through coupled with a short stint at not going back to her old habits again makes up so little of the book that it doesn’t really count. Imagine yourself staying under water for two minutes and coming up to the surface to take only a single breath before going down again.

This memoir explores how people with amazing jobs are not immune to problems like drug addictions. Though it struggles to keep readers interested at times, it doesn’t stop them from coming back for all the enjoyable and stressful parts of the author’s life. A must for working readers between the ages of twenty and thirty who struggle with substance abuse, unresolved family issues, and bad friendships.

Free paperback received from Penguin Random House SA in exchange for a review. Click here to view the book on their site.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Ebury Digital
Date Published: February 2, 2017
Genre: Drug Dependency
Pages: 374
View on Amazon

Published by Frank Frisson

Living in Cape Town, South Africa. People often tell me that I should get out more, but I'd rather read my brains out.

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