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It’s All in Your Head Review

Sara Pisak, Assistant opinion editor

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Eva Hagberg’s text It’s All in Your Head  is a short novel which I admittedly cannot wrap my mind around. Being perfectly honest with my audience, I have no clear cut opinion of this work. I am used to more of a black and white approach to my opinions surroundings texts. I find comfort in the fact I can both love and loathe aspects contained within the same text because I understand clearly what elements I like and dislike. Hagberg’s text is somewhat of a grey area for me and I assume for numerous other readers because it lacks any definitive information, leaving a reader not quite sure of their own emotions. This can be either the beauty or the downfall of Hagberg’s text.

Hagberg recalls her life story starting with her recovery from years of hard drinking and damaging drug use in 2008. Hagberg begins her career as a New York City architecture critic until one morning she awakes with dizziness. It’s All in Your Head chronicles the next five years of the author’s life as her unrelenting symptoms worsen. Hagberg seeks medical care from several professionals with each specialist insisting test results indicate she is “normal.” The medical diagnosis Hagberg receives is “it’s all in your head.”

Hagberg believes the professionals’ opinions and leaves busy New York for Portland, Oregon where she begins homeopathic therapy consisting of yoga, acupuncture, long relaxing walks and behavioral therapy. Hagberg continues therapy until February 2013 when an MRI reveals a tumor on her brain and blood tests divulge alarmingly high tumor markers, which are both indicators of cancer. Hagberg begins another excursion into the world of possible treatment options and brain biopsies. Sadly the author’s account abruptly concludes with the idea that she has only imagined the long sought after diagnosis and her problems are still only in her own mind. The text terminates midway as a reader is not privy to what happens to Hagberg, although thankfully her website informs readers she is in good health.

This unexpected ending, leads to some confusion when it comes to understanding what elements of  It’s All in Your Head a reader gravitates towards or shrinks away from. The reader has no solid ground to build a relationship with Hagberg nor does the reader comprehend what aspects, if any, are imagined or real. A reader of It’s All in Your Head  is meant to feel the frustration of questioning the occurrences in the text and their own feelings. It cannot be expected for a reader to understand and formulate an opinion on events in which the author herself is not confident of their occurrence. If Hagberg’s intended effect is to have the reader feel as insecure, unsure and frightened as the author then her work is brilliant and she has without doubt succeeded. In addition to the adjectives above, the reader is also left alienated, isolated and without any sort of closure. A reader cannot be blamed as they close the pages of this text for not wanting to return to the work a second time.

However, a reader cannot fault Hagberg for sharing her life story or for creating the feelings the text produces in each unique reader. As is the case with many novels, not every reader can validate their own life experiences through the work of an author. Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels is a perfect example as not every reader has been part of a notorious motorcycle gang; not every reader shares Thompson’s experiences but readers still keep coming back for more. Therefore, the same can be said about It’s All in Your Head, not everyone (Thank God!) will share Hagberg’s life story of an undiagnosed medical condition. The text maybe isolating and lack a closing but this is still Hagberg’s life. Furthermore, if she is brave enough to reveal her experiences then a reader should be respectful even if they are unable to form an attachment to Hagberg and her work.

The bottom line is I still do not have a firm grasp on my emotions towards It’s All in Your Head. There are two things I know for sure: First, this book produces without a doubt an eerie, haunting influence, which leaves the reader as much as the author questioning if “it’s all in their heads.” Second, I am still discussing this book weeks after first reading the work. After all, do not all authors strive to be remembered and to act as a catalyst for discussion?   

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Sara Pisak, Opinion Editor

Sara Pisak is a Senior English Creative Writing and English Literature major. Sara is the Opinion Editor for The Beacon.

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It’s All in Your Head Review