Daragh Fleming’s honest portrayal of mental health, wellbeing and recovery opens with a quote from Seneca, Moral Letters that states: ‘I will keep constant watch over myself.’ Throughout Fleming’s ‘Lonely Boy’, loss, friendship and death are at the forefront, and they are observed with a quiet awareness. It is at times a memoir, at times a guide, but it is always conscious of what it is doing. Fleming, as in life, is keeping a constant watch over his writing and the effect of his words.
Fleming’s writing is simple, direct, and incredibly honest. There is a vulnerability to the topics that he deals with, and he does not try to hide from it. Lonely Boy deals with the tragic suicide of a best friend, crippling panic attacks, what it is to be a man and what is expected of dangerous paradigms, the benefits of therapy, among many other pertinent discussions that should happen much more frequently. The writing is intimate and vernacular, so you feel that you might just be in a bar with Daragh where the conversation is flowing easily. By writing this book, in this way, Fleming reveals how these conversations in our society do not flow as easily or as frequently as they should.
At the heart of Lonely Boy is a man trying to be at peace with himself and his past, so that he can navigate his future. By doing this, he opens up about his struggles with mental health and what has worked for him. He is at no point condescending or preachy, but instead welcoming and helpful. He admits that he does not have the answers but by sharing his story with us helps us understand the questions. I’d recommend this book to anyone who has struggled with mental health, to any man who does not feel like he fits in, and to anyone who is open to reflection and growth.