Creative Women Doing Sixty: Jan Wong’s Out of the Blue: A Review

by Mehreen Shahid, TEC Intern

Published at 2013-03-17

Jan Wong has become something of a household name for newspaper reading Torontonians. Her hard-hitting journalistic style being her claim to fame. It also became the reason for her to step aside from the love of her life: her career.


In her memoir, Out of the Blue, Jan Wong shares the most painful aspects of her life, taking us through her work-related distress that led to severe depression and total disconnection from her work, friends, and family. The book opens up with a brief description of how she achieved great success in her career. Then came the controversial event that flung her from the acme of journalism into the most sinister depths of a debilitating mental illness: depression.


Falling Into the Blue

The bulk of the memoir takes the reader into the vortex of the depression that is sucking her under. Her writing is strong and forceful, and her story weaves an intricate web that is an apt reflection of the confusion prevalent in her mind. Her description of losing interest in everyday activities that were previously satisfying and enjoyable is heartrending. These powerful descriptions took me as a reader into a surreal world where I felt as much a part of the dilemma as did Wong.


Her insight into her illness is crisp, and at times charming, despite the discomfiture she suffers. Some parts of the memoir contain sprinklings of humour and colour besides the metaphorically used "blue." Her writing is compelling and it kept me riveted; Wong makes sure that the hearts of her readers lurch at every twist and turn in the book.


Out of the Blue is the story of how she fell into such a deep depression, which was triggered by her stressful work environment. She describes how the corporate giant that was her employer, The Globe and Mail, leaned on the secrets hiding in the fine print of her employee contract to shrug responsibilities incumbent upon it. In frustration, and with no sick leave being granted according to regulation, she eventually has to quit her job.


Coming Out of the Blue

The memoir slowly takes a turn for the better. Wong is forced to face her denial, and she eventually admits that she needs professional help for finding ways out of the blue." More insightful passages ensue when she takes us through the details of her therapy sessions. She experiences an epiphany when she realizes how she can break free of the monster that had engulfed her and was threatening to destroy her. It is a moment that lifted a weight off this reader's heart.


The feeling of liberation that Wong describes as she resurfaces brings much needed joy after journeying through the depth of darkness with her. Despite being a memoir that describes pain, fear, and gloom, Out of the Blue is a compelling page turner. Wong's fascinating story and forceful writing kept my attention right till the end.


Wong’s story showed me just how much courage it takes to get through our most debilitating moments. It also strengthened my belief in the capacity that we human beings have when facing adversity that threatens to rob us of our identity.