One shoebox might store an old pair of sneakers. Two shoeboxes might contain a lifetime of photographs. But in Three Shoeboxes, a father’s undying love may be just enough to make things right again.
*May Contain Spoilers*
Steven Manchester is known to write heartwrenching tales of love, faith, and family. Three Shoeboxes, his newest novel, is no different. As Mac suddenly begins experiencing panic attacks, his heroic father status is quickly revoked and he must work diligently to regain his life while trying to understand what is happening to him -- and why.
Mac Anderson and his wife, Jen, are both main characters in this novel, though the story is really about Mac's experience with anxiety and panic attacks. Mac is a great father and a loving husband, but he starts having panic attacks out of nowhere, which completely changes his entire personality. He quickly becomes a man who tries to relieve his pain through alcohol, a man who frightens his children with a quick temper and unpredictable mood swings, and a husband who doesn't trust his wife or her decisions.
As someone who has personal experience with anxiety, I thought that I would connect with Mac on a deeper level than I did. His mood swings, destructive tendencies, and cruel actions, however, turned me against him rather quickly. For the first half of the book, Mac was a character that I kind of hated. And I think it was mainly because there is no explanation as to why these panic attacks start. I understand that knowing the root cause is often an unattainable goal in anxiety, but I couldn't get past how horrible Mac's character was, even when he started to redeem himself and take control of his mental health. The extremes that Mac goes to in order to relieve his pain were too much for me to forgive so quickly and I found myself wanting the story to have a happy ending but not caring as much as I usually would.
The plot of the novel begins with the presentation of Mac before the panic attacks begin. Then suddenly, Mac is suffering daily from his anxiety, drinking and skipping out on work. His relationship with his wife and his children then begin to deteriorate and before Mac knows it, he has been arrested for domestic violence. It takes him a while, but eventually, he does realize that if he wants to get back to his children, he'll have to face his anxiety disorder head-on, which is exactly what he does.
Even though I didn't feel a strong connection to the main character, the best thing about this book is that it is a conversation starter and it doesn't shy away from the negative consequences that suffering from a mental illness can cause. Though the novel paints anxiety and panic attacks as something that will ruin your life, it also demonstrates that by addressing the problem with mental health care that it can be treated and stability can be rediscovered. I like and support books that open up topics like this because mental health has been a taboo topic for much too long. Because of that, I would recommend this book, though I think readers will be split on whether they truly connect with the story based on whether they have their own experience with anxiety and panic attacks (even PTSD).
Rating: 3/5 Cups