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.
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.