Book Review: My Life in a Nutshell*

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of one man’s struggles with debilitating anxiety. Brian Cunningham has isolated himself to such a degree that his human contact is barely more than an hour a day. While lonely, he feels powerless to change his life. Unexpectedly, his safe little world is invaded by one Abigail Harris, a seven-year-old girl who, for the last five years, has bounced from foster home to foster home. She has come to live with an aunt and uncle she has never known. Unsure if she can trust her new environment, she turns to Brian. Neither one quite knows how to live in the world. Can they possibly help each other?

My thoughts:

At times I found this book difficult to read, and that’s not because it wasn’t written well; it was written beautifully, and the book made me really care for Brian and the struggles that he was having. I just found it hard – possibly even a little uncomfortable at times – to read all his thoughts, as this man has very low self-esteem and a huge anxiety problem. Having never experienced anything on this level, it really sort of opened my eyes to just how much of a struggle simple every day tasks can be for some. I think the book was a great way for someone like me to understand how certain people may feel.

To begin with, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Brian, but as the story progresses you see more into his life and start to put together reasons behind his behaviour and struggles. When he meets Abigail he doesn’t know what to do, which of course is understandable as we discover that he hasn’t really had contact with children, even when a child himself. Abigail seems to have just two sides to her – she’s either super happy and giddy, or she’s having a tantrum and screaming. Unexpectedly, she decides that she like Brian, and despite his original concerns, he does manage to help her. In return, she definitely helps to bring Brian out a bit more. Their relationship was an interesting one to read, and one that I haven’t really come across in previous books. I really enjoyed this aspect because you see a whole different side to a friendly relationship when one is an adult and the other a child.

My favourite character actually was probably Hugh, and I’m not sure whether this makes me strange. Hugh just seemed to be someone who was good for Brian, as a male friend around the same age. Had the story carried on, I think we would have seen their relationship grow a lot more. I also really liked Roger as he was the definite ‘father figure’ for Brian. He didn’t really do that much in the story, but what he did do was give Brian the support that he needed to do his work and to talk to new people.

I finished the book late one night, sobbing into my pillows. I’ll let you read it and find out yourselves whether they were happy or sad tears!

My Rating – To see my rating guide click here.

Find the book:

Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Mental Health Novelist, Writer, & Speaker

imageTanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities. Peterson is an active volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and she is a regular columnist for the Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog on She draws on her education, experience, and personal background with bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety to write stories about the psychological aspect of the human condition, specifically mental illness and the impact it has on human beings. Her goal is to change the way the world thinks about mental illness and the people who live with it. 

*I received this book in exchange for a book review for the promo day.