Book Review – ‘Dread: microfictions on anxiety’ by Sef Churchill

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.

Sef Churchill’s book Dread is a collection of microfictions about living with anxiety. Each is no longer than 99 words, but those words are well chosen and bring the crippling reality of anxiety to vivid, searing life.

Churchill highlights the insidious nature of anxiety, and how it complicates the most ordinary of places and experiences – the perfume counter in a department store, on holidays, the living room. The book is a series of tiny vignettes showing the physical and emotional manifestations of anxiety in its varying forms. Some read like instruction manuals, talking through the steps of an anxiety attack; others are the desperate cries for help of those being pulled under; and still more are moments of quiet hope. There is a particular poignant beauty in these stories, when connection shimmers quietly:

They lived in the dark but survived, carrying their own tiny lights. He liked that. Miss Hughes did too, and gave him a House Point. But she looked sad.

In microfictions, each word needs to carry the maximum load; there is no room for waste. Sef does this beautifully; each tiny story has enough of a skeleton for the reader to flesh out the details. The backstory is easily discernible and the characters are authentic as they struggle or triumph in the face of their crippling anxiety. The metaphor and language provide a plethora of different windows through which an anxious person views the world. Anxiety goes far beyond stress and nerves; and the visceral descriptions Churchill uses to describe an anxiety attack make the sensation very real. Sef is also adept at sharp endings, often with a twist – these final words often exposing a deeper meaning not initially apparent. 

She also explores the way people without anxiety view those who suffer from it, and how that disbelief exacerbates the problem:

Adding to my particular stress, the doctor thinks I’m useless, that I’m simply not trying.

Anxiety has no quick fix; and Churchill does not shy from this reality. She covers many aspects of living with anxiety, how it can take complete control, and the frustration and fear sufferers experience when trying to explain its impact to others. The book is a heartfelt request for understanding and acceptance, and a beacon for anyone who feels isolated by their condition. For those looking on from the outside, it serves as a powerful glimpse into life with anxiety.

Dread: microfictions on anxiety is a quick read, but this does not mean it’s a lightweight book. The tales Sef Churchill has crafted here stand up well to subsequent readings, with moments of heartache and joy that are real and relatable. Those who struggle with anxiety, or know someone who does, will connect with the tiny gems in this collection.

Dread: microfictions on anxiety is available on Amazon.

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