What happens when you realise that you must change your life?
When – after years of hiding in routine, shrinking from opportunity, and sleepwalking through your days – you know you want more.
How do you remake your life without breaking it?
The Cure for Sleep is the stunning memoir of a smalltown wife and mother who returns from sudden near-death determined to live her second life on a larger, braver scale – whatever it takes, or costs.
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‘Tender and ferocious. The Cure for Sleep tackles perhaps the trickiest problem of all: how to live, fully and freely, while recognising the importance of home, family and enduring love’ THE IPAPER
‘A memoir that invites us to step out of the confines we have made. Every woman will see something of herself in it’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
‘A book about daring to head out, to encounter truths and to understand what place desire must have and must not have in a life. Beauty, pain and courage: all are here’ ADAM NICOLSON
‘A brilliant exploration of one woman’s driving need to punch through the constraints society puts upon her . . . This is a passionate hymn to the need to nurture the creative life inside of you’ Waterstones bookseller
‘A life-changing read. Rare are the books of which you can say they have changed your vision of life. This is one of them’ Waterstones bookseller
‘This book changes lives . . . Read it and wake up to making the most of your life’ Independent bookseller
‘One of those rare books like The Outrun and The Salt Path . . . a story of breaking and remaking’
‘This book could actually be life-changing . . . raw, honest, beautiful, heart-breaking, inspiring’
‘Calling all women. Get a copy of this book . . . It’s the most honest, fearless and insightful work I’ve ever read’
‘I’m in love with this book . . . Creative women – you will feel seen and so inspired. Add it to your list’
‘I feel as though a light has been shone into my soul, and I am resolved now to stride forth’
‘Every page of this book is medicine’
‘This book cracked me in two. So raw, so powerful, so inspiring’
‘Exquisite, nuanced, almost poetic in its intimacy . . . I am changed. You cannot possibly read and experience this and not be’
‘Comforting, revealing, provoking . . . one of the most important books I’ve ever read. A gift to the world, but especially women’
‘Just read it, especially if you’re a mother making any kind of art’
‘I know I will return to this beautifully written book again and again . . . So much that resonated about class, small towns, work, family life and motherhood – and the overwhelming need, through it all, to be ambitious for your own inner life’
‘The Cure for Sleep lays down a powerful but loving gauntlet to live creatively, passionately and honouring what it means to be fully alive’
‘A precious reference to a life lived well, with love and gusto . . . something to return to when we need reassurance we’re not alone in our desire for a different destiny. A lighthouse in between two covers’
‘Raw, poetic, powerful, deeply intelligent . . . it will resonate with many people who feel that their authentic voice has been stifled by social expectations’
‘Lyrical, beautiful, unusual and haunting. I loved the premise of trying to find creative artistry in the everyday’
‘A wondrous book . . . I am left wanting to write and to be brave’
‘This memoir just totally captivated my soul . . . a woman on a quest of rebirth and sovereignty . . . You will cry for her. You will cry for yourself, and you will grow’
Here are some parts of the book most highlighted by readers so far. I’d love to know what parts of The Cure for Sleep speak most to you – let me know on Twitter or Instagram…
We had been doing this all our life: making meaning from what we could not escape or change. Living among adults who were angry, absent, depressed and disappointed: hadn’t we first wanted to cure them, bring them back? Restore what they’d lost? Have them look up, out? And then, when we found out that we could not, didn’t we bend our vast and quiet concentration – inwards, outwards – on learning how to get away and reach firm ground? Only to find now, in this terminal moment, that it was not in a home or job or even a savings account that we’d made this for ourselves. The stronghold was our own mind, filled with all the lives we’d ever admired and studied, so that we could choose – even until our last breath. How to live. How to die. How to reach back with understanding, even as we are going beyond the ones we’ve loved.
Where does it begin, our turn away from risk and adventure? Why do so many of us hide in routine, shrink from opportunity? … Where does it begin? For if the events which wake us are sudden, what leads to a sleep of soul and possibility is harder to trace. We have to go back through all the tales told to us (or by us) about the world and its workings: that bramble thicket in which we lost our will and way.
If I’d been easier, prettier, with more winning ways. Conclusion I came to. That child’s instinct: to take the full weight of blame and shame rather than feel cast adrift in the universe by chance or carelessness or insignificance.
This was another early and disturbing glimpse of the system we existed in. Because although it was Father who had an affair and left, it was Mother – the only single parent in our time and place – who paid the price. Back there, back then, a good reputation was one of the few assets a working-class person could accrue; conformity was the ruling principle, and anything which made you exceptional could cause your stock to fall fast in that small farming town with its weekly cattle sale at which people were discussed and evaluated just as much as land and livestock.
“Those breaths after coma were posthumous: the me of my first thirty-three years – that girl, that woman, who had worked so steadily to keep herself hidden, safe and small – was dead. My new self was stripped bare and spreadeagled. Flayed too of consoling ideas about how life might be kept neat and tidy.”
Here it was, old habit of an awkward child! To notice a few bright details in the lives of others and assume me both unlike them and unlikeable.
Like so many who feel tender and unsure, I’d pretended arrogance until it became me: scales on my eyes and a hard shell around self made from layer after layer of refused opportunities.
Children who are safe know exactly what they need and are unafraid to ask for it. Again and again. Their desires are not always being sandbagged or buried or rationed.
Vocations, particularly the spiritual ones, require of us first discernment. We must learn to filter and distil our soul’s small voice before it can become a trustworthy compass.
How would it be if the mass of us could lay our burden down and acquire a sense of right fit, feeling at home in our skins, our stories?
Measure success not by the number of people who respond to what you make but be motivated instead by the one necessary person you might meet, whenever you risk putting a well-intentioned work into the world.
Understand how much time it takes for a work, or a path, or a life to take shape. Be alert to the teaching of chance.
But then a phrase from my time as a hospice scribe returns to me: It’s not much, but neither is it nothing. And so I will try and write a book of my own, inch by inch, that might reach beyond my narrow self and add to the ration of courage that stories are for us all. To share this learning I have, which was only accidental at first…: that more of us might find more and many little ways to step out of our circles of safe belonging, to show and share what we know, and surprise interest from others who encounter us. To be people who simply sit on park benches, open and noticing, so that a lonely person might feel able to risk a smile, then take a seat and speak. To spend even a few of our spare hours in this way, being calling cards and quiet invitations.
From The Bookseller
Lettice Franklin – who acquired the UK & Commonwealth rights in a pre-empt from agent Robert Caskie – said: ‘Tanya Shadrick’s prose intoxicated me from the moment I read it. Hers is an electrifying new voice and her book has the quality of a fable that teaches us how to live, how to step out of the confines we have made for ourselves, how to wake up. It reminds me of the very best memoirs – of Joan Didion’s autobiographical writing, of Lorna Sage’s Bad Blood and of Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am. I cannot wait to publish it.’
Tanya Shadrick, author said: ‘The Cure for Sleep is an exploration of unlived lives – mine, others’ – and what it takes to break the spell of longing for love, approval, rescue, ease. I grew up in a rural working-class family and what mattered most was to avoid gossip, be respectable, stick to one’s own. It took my own sudden near-death to wake me up to risk, chance and connection.’
Robert Caskie, agent said: ‘Tanya has that very rare combination of stillness and energy. Her stories captivated me instantly and her experimentation with style and genre impressed me greatly. I am delighted to represent her and thrilled she has found such a perfect fit with Lettice and W&N. Now more than ever it is important to empower voice and enhance creativity.’