I Never Said I Love You is also an atonement of sorts. The chapters are interspersed with letters to those who “still rattle around my heart in unresolved ways”, and the book is dedicated to his father. They decided against a coffin when he died — far too expensive — and cremated his body instead in a cardboard coffin. “It arrived plain, and my mother took it home. When I saw it again she had covered every inch with brightly coloured waves and petals, acrylic paint and poetry and photographs of happy memories,” he writes. “Highly unorthodox, and perfect for us.”
What he is an expert on is describing depression without resorting to any hackneyed black dogs. Some of the passages on the symptoms themselves are beautiful and accurate: he tells us about the ‘water torture of negative thoughts’. He manages, as narrator, to appear to be regarding his own behaviour from afar, which doctors would call dissociation and explain as another common symptom of illnesses that follow trauma and abuse.
There are some problems. The structure is a mess. Chapters have off-putting hopey-changey titles, such as How to Keep Going and How to Let Go. And although mostly lively and witty, occasionally the prose is ripe and overwritten. Yet overall this is a stunning memoir about grief and love, about vulnerability and the strength required to embrace it. It is perhaps because Samadder has tried so hard to escape his body and his life that he writes so gorgeously about how precious both these things are. Finally, after years of cutting himself, starving himself, hating his brown skin, he finds peace within his body. “The past has its hooks in us,” he says. This book will have its hooks in me for a long time yet.
his is one of the most eccentric and uplifting memoirs I have ever read. It ought to be excruciating – Rhik Samadder writes about his variously devastating experiences: sexual abuse, eating disorders, self-harming and depression (this is only the abbreviated list). But if you wanted proof that writing can rise above what it describes, this is it. The book is a buoy on troubled water (not at all the same as a bridge over it). It is indecently entertaining: there are moments when one feels guilty for enjoying the writing so much. Samadder is not making light of his difficult life but is being light about it, which is a sort of victory... [Samadder] reviews ways of coping with depression with the same wit with which he approaches gadgetry and an acknowledgment that anything that aims to combat depression is worthy of serious consideration.
But this isn’t a bad book. For all its thin moments, there’s some deep thinking and lots of what Samadder does best: laughs.
Above all, he’s likeable. You find yourself on his side, cheering him on as he breaks down the barriers between him and his parents, as he finds his metier, as he learns how to heal. With this exorcism done, keep an eye on his next move.