A Subtle Thing by Alicia HendleyA Subtle Thing by Alicia Hendley

A Subtle Thing

byAlicia Hendley

Paperback | July 1, 2010

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 120 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store

Out of stock online

Available in stores


Raw, honest and relentless, Alicia Hendley's debut novel is a heartbreaking and uplifting journey into one woman's battle with clinical depression. Drawing on her experience as a clinical psychologist, Alicia has created a compelling portrait of what life looks like through the eyes of someone whose actions may otherwise appear inexplicable. A Subtle Thing is a must read for anyone trying to understand what it's like for the friend, family member, colleague or employee who suffers from this debilitating condition.
Born in 1970, Alicia Hendley grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and now lives in Guelph with her husband and four children. She is a psychologist in the counselling centre at the University of Waterloo, where she works primarily with young adults. Alicia wrote the initial version of A Subtle Thing while on maternity leave with her t...
Title:A Subtle ThingFormat:PaperbackDimensions:268 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:July 1, 2010Publisher:Five Rivers ChapmanryLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0986542709

ISBN - 13:9780986542701

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! A Subtle Thing tells the story of a woman suffering from severe depression and how she copes with her self-destructive behavior, her constant negative thoughts, an unplanned pregnancy and the broken relationships in her life. With help and support from a few friends, certain family members and her doctors, she achieves the balance she needs to start working on the underlying causes of her depression. She’s able to mend a few relationships and she finally lets herself believe that she deserves happiness in her life. I started the book on my way to work and finished it in the evening before going to bed. The author aptly describes the feelings of despair, hopelessness and anxiety that accompany a depression. For a person who is familiar with these feelings, reading this description can be hard but at the same time it’s a blessing because it puts into words what many people feel on a day to day basis. I enjoyed this book because it shows that help is available for those suffering from mental health problems. With care and a supportive environment a person CAN thrive and live a fulfilling life despite suffering from depression. You can look at the story of Beth’s life and see where she went wrong but you can also sense her determination in living fully without letting her depression be the only thing that characterizes her.
Date published: 2011-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vivid and emotional I picked this up at my local bookstore with minimal expectations, but was immediately drawn into the world and mindset of the chronically depressed. The main character seemed so vivid and her behaviour alternating between self-destruction and hopefulness made for an emotional read. A truly enjoyable book which should be recommended for anyone who has ever been effected by depression.
Date published: 2010-09-14

Read from the Book

It’s subtle at first. You’re sitting at your computer one morning when you notice that something, just a little something, is there. The difference is so small, so nothing really, that it almost slips by. Maybe it starts in your stomach, nudging at your ribs. Or maybe you notice it in your fingers, shaking just a bit over the keyboard. If you try and take a deep breath maybe you’ll feel it for the first time then, giving your lungs a quick squeeze as they try to fill. This something is so minor, so not anything at all, that you can easily wave it away. Tonight you’ll go to bed earlier, maybe have a bath first with the cubes that fizz. Tomorrow you’ll skip that third cup of coffee and all will be fine. And you’ll be right. The next morning that something won’t be there and you’ll forget. Until an afternoon one week later, when a bag of Doritos refuses to fall from the vending machine, Damn it, and you burst into tears. The sudden wave of horrific despair will be so hot and wet that it’ll shock your eyes dry. What? … Where?... Why? You’ll demand, as the bottom falls out. Looking back you’ll know it’s been there for a while now. Weeks, maybe months, patiently waiting. Anyone could have noticed the signs if they’d been looking But why would you want to look for this? Those extra glasses of red wine, the phone calls that went on five minutes too long, the way you’d started looking to the sides of people, not able to deal with anyone or anything head-on.When the tears come you know that something’s different, something’s changed. You’ve cried before, but always as a release, to get something out. Now it feels like the reverse—like you keep taking things in. Whatever blinders you had on before to keep the outside out are gone. Suddenly everything makes you cry. It’s the careless bits of kindness that really get to you. A neighbour shoveling out your car just because. The coffee shop lady remembering how you like your coffee (large, two creams, no sugar). Your thesis advisor giving you an extension when you have no solid reason for needing it. Anything, everything makes you cry. Mold threatens to grow on your raw, damp face as the faucet opens up. Your empathy for any living creature that could be experiencing pain also kicks into overdrive. Compassion oozes out of you like sweat, until you’re bathed in it. But it’s still normal, it’s still okay. You’ve been under stress at school, deadlines are tight. It’s just a sign to slow down, to take it easy. You’ve got too much on your plate.And so you go into fix-it mode. You replace your caffeine with chamomile, your emails with Enya. You sign up for every yoga and mindfulness class you can get your hands on, and pop St. John’s Wort with your multivitamin. You start saying no and meaning it. You surround yourself with incense, bubble bath, and essential oils. When that doesn’t work, when nothing seems to work, you go see a psychologist. You find yourself temporarily soothed by his reassurances of your sanity, by his pronouncements that all of this, whatever this is, can go away if you stop letting in those negative, nasty thoughts. All you need to do is grab those thoughts at the door and strip-search them for their accuracy. No gatecrashers allowed. And for a while you believe him. You learn to identify your thoughts, to evaluate your thoughts, to replace your thoughts with realistic ones. He preaches earnestly to you about the importance of change, about the necessity of moving forward, of letting go. He wisely tells you that life is like a river, that you can never step in the same water twice. You go home embracing this as your new ideal, then become paralyzed by the possibility of buying a new brand of toilet paper. Yet you are determined to believe in him, you’re desperate for this to work. You convince yourself that with enough effort you too can have a mind that is sanitized and pure. Until that one session, eight weeks in, when your dreams of wells without bottoms and birds flying into mirrors don’t fit into his neat, manicured space. When you decide that you want to go beyond what is surface, that you want to show him everything else. When you want him to know the core, with the pulp and the juice and the seeds, with the flesh and the muck. When you hold it all out to him but all he can see is the polished skin, shiny and blemish-free. So you decide to try the chemical route, to dynamite your brain back into submission. You set a date to see your physician, then sit through the whole appointment silent and weeping. Despite this, or maybe because of this, he hears you, finally, someone hears you, and gives you a prescription, your golden ticket. Dutifully you fill it out and put the bottle on your counter, next to the toaster. Your plan is to have it there so that there’s no way you can forget to take the pills. No excuses. The medication can’t work if you don’t consistently take the pills. So why can’t you force yourself to take the damn pills? After three weeks spent staring at the bottle (and one desolate night spent envisioning yourself putting its entire contents down your gullet) you dump the pills in the toilet.And then things get odd. Wet sand fills your veins, weighing you down. Everything feels heavy—the fork in your hand, your lover’s gaze, the words in your throat. The world becomes filled with edges that bump against you, bruising you from the outside in. And then the forgetting. Not just simple things like names or dates. No. You shampoo your hair and forget to rinse. You put bread in the toaster and forget what comes next. You stare at your lover and forget what the point of it all is. Is there a point? Should there be? What the hell is the point? But the remembering is much worse. Every pushed away, shoved down hurt comes bubbling back up. The remembering is not about the wrongs done against you. It’s about what you so easily, and so shamelessly, have done to others. Memories long suppressed start to sprout and bud from that hidden place. You remember tripping a skinny boy on the playground in grade three, just because you could. You remember bribing your whiny cousin fifty cents just so that she wouldn’t come to your birthday party and ruin it all. You remember making your little sister sit through the Wizard of Oz and the flying monkeys, just to feel the sweet power of being able to make her cry. You remember ending relationships without explanation and forgetting your parents’ anniversary two years in a row. You remember, you remember, you remember. All of it, each and every ruthless moment of it, was you. Everything that is callous and brutal at your core starts to rot and you can’t get away from the stench.The funny thing, it’s hilarious, really, is that no one seems to know. Not your lover, not your friends, and thankfully not your family. You’re walking through your days with parts falling off behind you and no one notices the leper among them. Eyes? Gone. Nose? Gone. Ears? Gone. Brain? Heart? Fingers? All gone. You drift in a sightless, soundless, tasteless void but all’s fine with the world. So you go through the motions (you’re great at going through the motions) and try to wait it out.And then one morning you notice, it’s gone. Where it went and why it was here at all becomes irrelevant. The whole thing goes back to that hidden place, where it belongs. Here’s what does matter: Your hands aren’t shaking. You can take a deep breath and fill up the bottom of your lungs. You can hug your friends without splitting in two. You can look at your lover and remember what the point of it all is. It’s a subtle thing, really.

Editorial Reviews

Alicia Hendley captures the essence of humanity, in all its glorious faultiness.... -- Emily Rae Robles, The Ambitious Ambigue.A Subtle Thing is a gritty and raw novel that hits the reader in such a powerful and sincere way that putting it down is simply not an option. - Canadian Book ReviewAlicia Hendley's wonderfully written first novel is certainly not light reading and there's not much to like about Beth in the early going. But a compelling story gradually emerges about her return from the depths, a climb made more difficult by the attitudes of others who refuse to let her move on, long after the dark days are over. Let's hope she [Alicia Hendley] can find time to keep writing, another baby or not. -- Jon Fear, Kitchener Waterloo Record.I was blown away by this debut novel. -- Foozago Book Review