THE WAY WE WEREN'T by Jill Talbot


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A chronicle of obsessive grief.

Essayist Talbot (Loaded: Women and Addiction, 2007, etc.) recounts her life after her lover, Kenny, left her and their young daughter, Indie. For the next 13 years, she was unable to forgive or forget: “What we leave won’t leave us, it seems, the same way that Kenny won’t seem to leave me, even though he did long ago.” Two years after he left, she “carried all the words he had said to her through every action: every load of laundry, every page read on the couch, every stroke of mascara in the mirror, and every pouring” of a gallon of wine each night. Leaving Indie in the care of friends, Talbot entered a detox program, where a counselor advised, “You don’t have to be Hemingway to be a writer. You don’t have to drink or be sad.” Although in mourning, the author was able to function professionally, taking various short-term teaching jobs, moving with her daughter many times. At Boise State University, she called herself “The Professor of Longing,” and she includes her imaginary syllabus: “This course is about failed attempts,” she announces. “We’re not going to read anything beyond my own proclivities. We’ll discuss stories, essays, and poems that remind me of my most recent misgivings, the words underlining my past….The text in this class is me.” Unfortunately, this self-absorbed memoir also is only about Talbot; she gives no real sense of Kenny or her growing daughter, only of her own attenuated suffering. One particularly disturbing episode involves Indie: shortly after a move to Canton, New York, the fourth-grader fell ill. Vomiting and relentless diarrhea continued for several weeks before Talbot took her to a pediatrician—and then only after she herself collapsed. Carbon monoxide poisoning nearly killed them both.

A sad memoir from a woman mired in the past.

Pub Date: July 14th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59376-615-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2015


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