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My Life in a Nutshell

A brilliant and talented man crippled by extreme anxiety and panic attacks, Brian Cunningham has carefully crafted his world so that his interactions with others are severely limited. Although incapable of changing his situation, he discovers that, somehow, he is the only person seven-year old Abigail Harris can trust. Having bounced from one foster home to another, she has unexpectedly come to live with a childless aunt and uncle she has never known. For very different reasons, both Brian and Abigail are trapped in emotionally and socially isolated lives. Can they learn from each other?

ISBN: 978-1-62901-072-4

Release Date: May 1, 2016 (Inkwater Press)

Retail Price: $17.95 (paperback) $3.99 (eBook)

Available at , Barnes& and elsewhere.


RECOMMENDED by The US Review of Books:

“Peterson’s writing is sensitive and engaging. As readers become invested in the outcome of her memorable characters, hopefully the ultimate triumph will be in helping to lessen the stigma that often surrounds such psychological disorders. Written from a very clear and well-informed perspective, Peterson should be lauded for navigating the field of mental illness and presenting important relative issues in an affable fiction manner. It is a truly fine work that entertains, as well as informs.”  —Carol Davala of The US Review of Books

Read the full USR  review.

“As in her previous novels, Peterson demonstrates a tender, notably human understanding of mental illness….[S]he accurately captures the crushing sensations of anxiety disorder[s] while simultaneously offering rays of hope. A vital tool for sufferers and their families that broadens understanding of a debilitating illness.”   —Kirkus Reviews

Read the full Kirkus review.

“[My Life in a Nutshell] gets inside the experience of a sufferer in a way that no case history or other non-fiction text ever can….It is one which is quite lovely to read.”    — Hubert O’Hearn of  San Francisco Book Review

Read the full San Francisco Book Review.

“Tanya J. Peterson has once again written a novel that successfully portrays a multifaceted character living life with a psychological disorder. Brian Cunningham is written so powerfully, there were times I felt his anxiety and had physical reactions right along with him. Peterson’s writing is poignant and sensitive and serves to lessen the stigma so often attached to mental health disorders. I applaud Peterson for combining her expertise in the field of mental health with her extraordinary talent for storytelling. The result is a believable character and a novel that is visceral, raw and real that serves to educate as well as to entertain.”  — Shawn Verdin, professional counselor and book blogger

“A truly inspiring and moving novel…Tanya J Peterson delves deeply into the issue of social anxiety and personality disorders as well as depression, and makes us see and feel things exactly as they are in the world of a mentally ill person. Peterson has opened our eyes to the world of mental illness, and now that our eyes are opened, there’s no going back to our blissfully unmindful cocoon, there’s no excuse for insensitivity; she has handed us this knowledge right into our hands. Mental illness is a serious issue, but not an incurable one, and definitely not an epidemic that should be sidestepped, shunned or be apprehensive of by the healthy majority simply because it’s an abnormality. My Life in a Nutshell is riveting, gripping, and quite exceptional as it takes us on an extra-ordinarily emotional journey. Quite a remarkable read!”  —Ije Kanu, Literary Fiction Editor,

“A compelling and heart-wrenching read with characters you just want to hold in your heart and never, ever let go. I find myself yearning to revisit this novel in the hope that a few more chapters magically appeared. It’s easily one of my favorite reads of 2014. ”  —Charlene Martel of The Literary Word

“One very confused and lonely man who feels worthless. One very frightened and unsure little girl with a horrifying past. Thrown together, their unlikely friendship helps them both navigate a scary world and begin to heal one another. My Life in a Nutshell will put you through the emotional wringer. At end of it you will come out of it a better person for having read this amazing book. It will make you look at the world differently and wonder how many people are fighting a battle we know nothing about. This book will touch your heart in ways other books never could.”   —JB Johnston, Brook Cottage Books

“My Life in a Nutshell provides an unforgettable window into the inner dialogue of an individual who is dealing with extreme anxiety. Tanya J. Peterson normalizes anxiety issues, allowing the reader to empathize with the main character’s struggles and marvel at his resiliency. I highly recommend this book for anyone who struggles with their own anxiety and those who hope to understand the anxiety of others.”   —Dr. Carla Anderson, Coordinator of Student Services, College of Education and Human Services, South Dakota State University

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Honors & Awards

Twenty-Four Shadows

Named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2016



My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel

Named to Kirkus Reviews’ list of Best Books of 2014




U.S. Review of Books

Recommended by the US Review of Books: Nutshell & 24 Shadows


Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog

The Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog I write for won this award.


Losing Elizabeth

Recipient of the Storytellers Campfire Marble Book Award for being a “book which has made a significant difference in the world.”


Contact Tanya

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