Review of Michelle Wildgen’s 'You're Not You': A novel

By Anne Brady

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Michelle WildgenYou're not you. These words could signify many things -- a question, a joke, an identity crisis -- but for Beck, a junior in college, they become a way of life when she takes a job assisting Kate, a thirty-six- year- old woman with Lou Gehrig's disease. When Beck first takes the job -- enticed by the fifteen dollar an hour salary -- she expects Kate to be sort of an invalid; she thinks she'll have to do things like serve tea and read to her. What she doesn't expect is Kate the thirty-six year old former advertising agent, accomplished chef, and independent woman who needs things done exactly her way.

One of Beck's jobs is translating Kate's speech. Once you know her, her ALS-impaired speech becomes easy enough to decipher, but the general public needs a bit of help. This is perhaps the hardest part for Beck, especially when Kate's marriage has disintegrated and she must speak to Kate's husband, Evan, in Kate's voice, and Kate's voice alone. "You're not you right now," Kate has to remind her at one point.

This plot alone has enough substance to make Michelle Wildgen's You're Not You an interesting story. Beck's attachment to Kate -- she gets so attached, in fact, that she moves into Kate's home -- the questions brought up about marriage -- is it wrong for Evan to have sex outside his marriage because Kate is now paralyzed? -- the difficult choices Beck must make at the end of Kate's life, and the pieces of her own life she is left to put back together afterward, all are things that would make the book an interesting read for anyone. But add in Beck's losing interest in her college classes, her relationship with her parents and Jill, her best friend and roommate, and her steamy affair with Liam, a married professor, and you have the perfect page-turner for any college student.

No matter your age, You're Not You will be a book you can't put down. It made me think, laugh, cry, want to punch a wall, and, at certain points, perform said actions simultaneously. No matter who you are or what your situation in life may be, Michelle Wildgen will give you something to relate to and strike a chord in your heart with her literary masterpiece, You're Not You.

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