Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting the Mercury Out by Áine Ní Cheallaigh

Book: Getting the Mercury Out
Author: Áine Ní Cheallaigh
Publisher: Capsule Press

Every horror story ever written contains the same five basic elements: an opening that grabs the reader, exposition of the characters and their situation, complications, climax, and finally some sort of resolution. The horror story protagonist often faces a shocking state of helplessness; a desperate need to stop the agent of antagonism; pressure to do something to halt it; a razor-sharp intensity of emotions; the dramatic rise and fall in tensions; and finally the sweet refuge of redemption.

I say if it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . 

While it meets each and every one of the criteria listed above, Getting the Mercury Out isn’t a traditional horror story. It is author Áine Ní Cheallaigh’s very real, very serious, very personal journey through mercury poisoning, identification, detox, and recovery. It details the staggering and debilitating effects of heavy metal toxins on her health, cognitive functions, career, day-to-day life, and her relationship with her girlfriend.

And, much like any horror story by Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, or Stephen King, it leaves the readers crossing their fingers and chanting, “Damn, I’m glad it isn’t me," as they shove the annoying pest control salesman out the front door.

Getting the Mercury Out, though, is a deceptive book. Ms. Ní Cheallaigh’s writing is often light and tinged with subtle humor, even when the subject matter is dark and painful. I’m not sure if this is intentional or an unintended artifact of her natural wit and writing style. Regardless, the book is simply and elegantly written, and an amazingly quick and easy read. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of non-fictions, but I had a hard time putting this one down. I was completely wrapped up in her journey to self-diagnose and treat her toxin dump, celiac disease, adrenal exhaustion, food and chemical reactions, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and depression. Of course, that left me feeling a little funny inside – was I actually enjoying the book or was it like watching a car crash? The jury is still out on that one.

I’ll also admit that I haven’t seen the word “poop” used this many times since I edited a journal article on Dung Beetles in graduate school.

Ultimately, though, while Getting the Mercury Out is compelling reading for people who’ve never been affected by something like heavy metal toxins, it’s really written for a very narrow, specific audience. That audience is the group of men and women who struggle against the effects of these insidious poisons, and anyone else that wages a similar battle against a host of different mental and physical demons.

Áine Ní Cheallaigh emerged stronger and healthier from this real life horror story because failure was not an option, and success was her very life. In writing Getting the Mercury Out, she succeeds where others have fallen short because she pressed through the waterfall of numbing and confusing scientific data, and put a very vulnerable, human face on the disease. Getting the Mercury Out is well done, and I’m giving this plucky memoir a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.

For more information and a safe place to share the experience of recovering from heavy metal toxicity, visit Áine Ní Cheallaigh’s website:

1 comment:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Salem. That's what my life was like, a real-live horror story!

    Thanks for writing such a great and thoughtful review :)

    PS: If anyone is interested in winning a free copy of the book, there's a giveaway running on Goodreads right now: