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Sunday Book Review – No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny – #Grief and Loss

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. As I’ve explained before in other reviews for books I’m currently on a tangent with reading during my time of grief. Before and after losing my own husband, I couldn’t concentrate on reading any books as my mind was preoccupied with my husband’s welfare, then ultimately, his passing. But I have found that I can easily read books on grieving, and stories about life after death, in the literal sense, and as a grieving widow. Such books give me a bit of comfort right now in my life, books that equate with what is currently going on inside me, questions swirling around, the need for a kinship with those who’ve walked in the shoes before me in this journey, and a sense of ‘fitting in’ somewhere new.

 

Nora McInerny’s story is a powerful one. In this book she teaches us through her own lessons about deep love and loss, how she endured, and how she found new love unexpectedly, and the guilt she felt for loving another man while she was still in love with her first husband.

Now, I’m so veryyyyyyyyyyyy far away from even thinking about a ‘Chapter 2’, as Nora calls it. And I was drawn to this book after watching a Ted Talk with Nora as she briefly discussed her journey of loss, and despite the sadness of her whole situation, her ability to punctuate some of her story with humor in her easy conversational style of telling, compelled me to read further on about this woman.

You can expect more reviews in coming weeks of books I feel make a difference in the life of someone who is grieving, so I hope you can all take something from my reviews whether you’ve been ‘in the shoes’ or not, because inevitably, we will all be walking the walk at some point in our lives.

 

 

 

Blurb:

The author of It’s Okay to Laugh and host of the popular podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking—interviews that are “a gift to be able to listen [to]” (New York Times)—returns with more hilarious meditations on her messy, wonderful, bittersweet, and unconventional life.

Life has a million different ways to kick you right in the chops. We lose love, lose jobs, lose our sense of self. For Nora McInerny, it was losing her husband, her father, and her unborn second child in one catastrophic year.

But in the wake of loss, we get to assemble something new from whatever is left behind. Some circles call finding happiness after loss “Chapter 2”—the continuation of something else. Today, Nora is remarried and mothers four children aged 16 months to 16 years. While her new circumstances bring her extraordinary joy, they are also tinged with sadness over the loved ones she’s lost.

Life has made Nora a reluctant expert in hard conversations. On her wildly popular podcast, she talks about painful experiences we inevitably face, and exposes the absurdity of the question “how are you?” that people often ask when we’re coping with the aftermath of emotional catastrophe. She knows intimately that when your life falls apart, there’s a mad rush to be okay—to find a silver lining, to get to the happy ending. In this, her second memoir, Nora offers a tragicomic exploration of the tension between finding happiness and holding space for the unhappy experiences that have shaped us.

No Happy Endings is a book for people living life after life has fallen apart. It’s a book for people who know that they’re moving forward, not moving on. It’s a book for people who know life isn’t always happy, but it isn’t the end: there will be unimaginable joy and incomprehensible tragedy. As Nora reminds us, there will be no happy endings—but there will be new beginnings.

 

My 5 Star Review:

Nora McInerny helps to welcome those of us new to widowhood with a delivery of micro dosing of humor threaded in where warranted to ease in some comedic relief to soften the heartache we will engulf within when reading Nora’s story.

This author explains to us within her own personal stories, how everything we do in life, leads us to the next something. She shares her life openly and the tragic woe she lived through in a short timeframe of losing her unborn child, her father, and her beloved husband Aaron within the span of a few short months. As she states, “You don’t stop loving your first love, you keep it and take it with you.” She explains that everything that came ‘after’ in her life was built on the life she had before; she refers to her life after losing her first husband as – Chapter 2.

This book is a memoir told in conversational style of the author’s most raw and poignant moments of love, loss, enduring, and even how her life moved forward – not on, almost without her realizing as all the new parts in her new widowed life fell and found new life. Ahh, but new life doesn’t mean she forgot about her old life, or that the searing pain of missing her first husband ever went away, but how she managed to tuck that life into a sacred place and allowed it to become part of her new life. She freely expresses her thoughts, fears, doubts, and longings as she grieved the loss of Aaron, some of which might have some scratching their heads to her open admissions about physical longings and needs being met, not because she wanted another relationship, not to get over her love for Aaron, but to remember what it felt like to be touched and desired, before she realized that human emotions do have an affect on her limitations and that her momentary needs were just that, moments of longing to feel human touch. She’ll continue on sharing her apologies for her spontaneous desire, sharing her not realizing how the one she chose for pleasure only began to entangle the emotions of that partner, and her realization about how wrong that was to allow someone into her bubble of grief for her own satisfaction, and her self-reckoning with how that person was hurt.

After Nora meets Matthew, her deep, intense telling of how that relationship even came to be, she makes us understand the gift she was given at her ‘second chance with love’, all the while making us understand that despite her second time round, everything she did and was came from her deep love for her first love, Aaron.

Nora shares how she struggled to be in her new relationship because of guilt and shame she felt for holding love in her heart for Aaron while having ‘new’ love for someone else. Nora continues on about the relationship with Matthew and talks about the places she could no longer go to with anyone that were now sacred to her and Aaron, but shows us the way on how she made new places to go in her new life.

 

Best Relatable Quotes:

Most poignant line for me: “I wasn’t a caregiver, I was a wife living my vows.”

“Aaron died at age thirty-five and that will always be tragic and it will always make me sad. But our love and his death are not a burden to the person who loves me next. Aaron’s love and Aaron’s death are my foundation.”

“The first year of widowhood is a year of firsts: 365 days where you can say, ‘last year, we were . . .”

On religion: ” What does God have to do with this? I wanted to shout at every person who tweeted their #thoughtsandprayers to me while Aaron’s body wasted next to me. What does a prayer do? What kind of God is listening, but not doing anything?”

“God to me is just people.” (Referring to the people who helped her find her way.)

“Even if you’re surrounded by people you love, figuring out grief is a solo project.”

Nora to her therapist: “This is what I’ve felt like all these months, like I’m groping about in the darkness, waking up in a world I hadn’t expected to occupy. But there is no way through it, except through it.”

On being unafraid to give her heart again: “You cannot bubble wrap and protect your heart from life, and why should you? It is meant to be used, and sometimes broken. Use it up, wear it out, leave nothing left undone or unsaid to the people you love. Let it get banged up and busted if it needs to. That’s what your heart is there for.”

Hemingway Quote: “.. the world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are stronger in the broken places.”

Nora shares with us that her grief for the loss of Aaron remains, despite the new love she has with Matthew, because true love will never die just because the body has.

©DGKaye2021

Life Love Loss

 

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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.

45 Comments

  • sally cronin

    I am glad you have found some books that you can relate to right now Debby and there is comfort in the words of those who have experienced the loss of a love of their life. You are finding your own path through grief and I know that one day you will share your wisdom in a book to help others..♥♥

    • dgkaye

      I am definitely trying to make a pathway for life to resume Sal. I think I’ve handpicked the appropriate books. More to come, and certainly a book will be birthed from this journey <3 xx

  • Marjorie Mallon

    I’ve been thinking about you a lot this weekend Debby. It must be so tough. I’m glad you are finding some comfort from books such as this and keeping busy. That must help to a degree. Sounds like a wonderful memoir. Sending love, and kind thoughts. Marje x

  • Stevie Turner

    I remember my mother joining various social groups after my dad died, as she couldn’t bear being on her own. She had a couple of boyfriends after Dad died and even learned to drive, but she never re-married. I don’t think she ever got over his death. When my grandmother was widowed she always said that one man was enough for her and didn’t mind being on her own. Two widows but two different attitudes. x

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing that Stevie. I have no idea what the future will bring for me, but thing is certain one marriage to the love of my life was enough for a lifetime for me too. <3

  • Pete Springer

    I think many people don’t know what to say when they know someone is grieving. Saying you’re praying for someone may not mean anything to a non-religious person, but hopefully, the sentiment will be seen as that person’s gesture to show they feel empathy for a person who has lost a loved one.

    I think books like this are super important for others who are going through the same feelings. I can imagine that everything is a reminder of our loved ones.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Pete. I’m also one of those people who feel awkward giving condolences because it is uncomfortable, because we don’t feel there are appropriate words. That’s because there aren’t any. So a prayer, a thought, a message is always a comforting gesture, just to know someone is thinking of you or cares is a good feeling. There are no words of wisdom to make better what we must live through ourselves, in our own time.

  • Alex Craigie

    You were so right, I think, when you referred to a shared kinship. When you’re coping with such a huge loss there must be some comfort to be had from reading about others who’ve walked a similar path before you. <3

  • Norah Colvin

    What a powerful book. I think you’re right. We probably all should read it as we’ll go through it at some time. Nora’s first husband was young when he died – the same age as my sister. Life continues but the grief remains. I hope you are finding some comfort in sharing the stories of others who have also lost their love.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you Norah. I can’t imagine the grief ever going away. I hope in time we just can learn to tuck it away neatly to help us go on without such a heavy heart <3

  • Jane Sturgeon

    My dearest unicorn buddy, grief is unique. To find books that flow resonating words, gift crumbs of comfort. Your review shows that and I know you will birth a book of your own from this. I hold you in my heart, always. <3 <3 <3 Xxxxxxxxxx

  • Amy M Reade

    Debby, this sounds like a perfect book for you right now–one that is honest and relatable and not candy-coated. But it’s still hopeful and maybe offers a little bit of light in the darkness. I’m impressed that you’re able to read these books and share them with all of us, your community. We love you.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Amy. These types of books seem to be the only books I have the urge to read right now. I crave the information and the kinship right now. Thank you for your love and support <3

  • C Reyes

    Thanks for sharing what you’re reading, Debby. Nora’s book sounds powerful.
    Your reference to the “How are you?” question reminded me of something I wrote about in my first book (part of which, coincidentally, also dealt with grieving).
    Where I come from, “How are you?” is such an important question because it means the person really wants to know so they can help in some way if possible. I used to joke about it (“How much time do you have?”) but as I grew older, I realized how meaningful and important that question is at certain times and in certain cultures – as opposed to others.
    Partly to say I wondered how you are coping. I think of you often, and am glad you find comfort in reading.
    Big hugs,
    Cynthia.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you for sharing a personal part of you Cynthia. Yes, I find that ‘How are you?’ is a very loaded question. Thanks for dropping bye. <3

  • Michael

    Thank you for another great review, Debby! It sounds a very empowering book, just right for finding own steps to overcome some grief. Great to hear you are having comfort. Maybe I can cheer you up a little with the fact that here in Bavaria – as if we didn’t already have enough evils here; -) – the rabbit plague has now also been found. A few more things like that and I’ll find a isle in the South Sea. 😉 Be well and stay save! Michael

    • dgkaye

      Oh my goodness Michael, that is not cheering up, that is something new and scary! But I think you have the right idea – time to move to a private island, lol 🙂 Stay safe! xx

  • Chuck Jackson

    Hi Debbie,
    It is comforting to see that you are handling your grief well. As you know by now, no one handles it the same way. Individuals who have never had someone like a spouse or child die have no concept of what it’s like. Yet, we should not discount their genuine acts of consoling. When people indicate that we can get through this grief, I want to scream at them. Grief is NOT something we get through, get over, etc. Grief is something we learn to live with. We don’t stop loving that person when they die; therefore, we don’t stop grieving either. There are stages of grief, and with each, we become stronger. To not grieve is unhealthy, but I believe it is also unhealthy to end the grief. Learn from our grief, and we will re-enter our changed life a stronger and more compassionate people. I hope you are still writing in your journal. It will become invaluable once you start writing that book about this stage of your life. HUGS

    • dgkaye

      Chuck, thanks so much for passing by and passing on your wisdom. Everything you said is bang on. I know, cuz I’m living it, and I’m reading a lot about it. When you said, “Grief is NOT something we get through, get over, etc. Grief is something we learn to live with.” You captured it perfectly. And yes, oh my, I probably have enough for one book already as it’s my personal writing that has become a conductor for grieving. Everything reminds of something else, and suddenly something else to write about. Thank you again my friend for passing on your message. I know well how you’ve walked in the shoes.<3

  • John Maberry

    A whole long list of–what else, bookmarks for when it happens in my life. Assuming I’m the last one standing, sitting or . . . This looks like another useful one to add to the list! Thanks and keep on moving through. The next stage will be there when it’s your time to deal with that one.

  • Liesbet

    Thanks for the review. This sounds like a book that has many wisdoms and dimensions to it, Debby. I bet it made you snicker a few times as well. 🙂

  • Diana Peach

    What a touching description of where you are, Debby. It seems the books are letting you know that you aren’t alone as they share the authors’ journey and wisdom. This one sounds heartfelt and honest, a trusty companion through grief. Most of us will go there someday, and I plan to keep the these in mind. Thanks for the insightful review.

  • Olga Núñez Miret

    It sounds like an amazing book and an amazing woman, Debby. It’s always a relief to know that you are not alone, but it’s also true that each one of us has to find his/her own way. Stay safe, and keep reading comforting books.

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Debby – you’ve given us a great write-up here … your own very new experience comes through, as too your appreciation that others can give you a perspective on life now and ahead. A really good thought provoking read … I feel for you, but so appreciate this post – with lots of thoughts as life carries you along … Hilary

    • dgkaye

      Hi Hilary. Thanks so much for your feedback. I’m so glad you enjoyed learning about Nora and her journey and how it can relate to so many of us. Hugs xo

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