If you ever read a passage from a book and said, “This! I’ve had this, I know this, this is exactly how I felt!”, then you understand how it was to read The Spider and the Wasp, by Matt Haarington. When I first agreed to review the memoir, I figured that Matt’s dry humor and unique perspective would provide a fun, quirky journey into the world of political lobbying, peppered with plenty of “did that really just happen?” moments that come when you work under a boss you suspect is certifiably insane. (Social worker note: as I have not assessed the boss in question, this is my personal and not professional opinion only. For more information, please see: batshit crazy).
Except The Spider and the Wasp was much more than I bargained for. What I got was a harrowing exploration of how our own demons shape us in ways we can only sit back and observe in the safety of hindsight. Instead of a comedy, I fell down the rabbit hole of my own inner self. For readers, you can expect a lot more than a quick jaunt through the often mundane world of lobbying. Haarington does give us a glimpse of the world in D.C. that we only hear about, but he does it while pulling back the curtain on what it is like for the 117 million people – roughly half of America, who live and work with a chronic illness. His experience with being diagnosed as a teenager with ulcerative colitis (the genetic sister to Crohn’s disease), getting an ostomy bag at 18, and ultimately his PTSD from surviving two more life threatening diseases before he turned 25 is simultaneously a punch to the gut and an aide-mémoire of hope. I’m not an easy person to impress or fluster, so when I say that I read the nearly 400 pages of The Spider and the Wasp straight through in a single sitting, finding myself curled into a ball on my chair in the middle of the night, I hope that I’m imparting the impact of what this book represents.
By now you’ve probably realized that Haarington’s book hits very close to home for me. The book’s readability and vivid descriptions of traumatic experiences made it too easy for me to see myself in the author’s place because of my own tumultuous history with Crohn’s disease. What The Spider and the Wasp does is to draw that crooked line showing how a youth with a chronic childhood illness develops into a person while under the stress of continuously dealing with traumatic near death experiences. The book also made me question whether all survivors of childhood illnesses can be diagnosed with some sort of adjustment/anxiety disorder, and if they have all developed a pervasive sense of humor to help get them through life. Haarington effectively kicks down the bathroom stall and talks about what it is really like to live with a condition that most never want to talk about because it carries with it a heavy social stigma. Oh yeah, and he does so while making you laugh at the absurd antics of an unbelievable boss while dishing out a healthy dose of potty humor that only a survivor of a “bathroom disease” can appreciate. As an added bonus, Haarington’s book will also provide readers with plenty of material on one-of-a-kind, ingenious phrases and anti-boss insults to add to your repertoire.
Anyone who has ever worked can see themselves having that conversation with your loved one as to whether your sadistic co-worker is a psychopath or narcissist. Anyone who has ever had to revolve their life around trips to the bathroom, or sugar checks, or breathing treatments, or heavy medication schedules, will connect to his life.
In summary, Matt Haarington’s The Spider and the Wasp is “Poo-tacular.”
Buy your copy now: www.amazon.com
Kindle addition available online at: Amazon.com
By: Courtney Kidd, LMSW