Ruminations about the power of 12 of life’s essential phrases and the difficulty in learning to say them out loud.
Corrigan (Glitter and Glue, 2013, etc.) may be a bestselling author, but she doesn’t always know the right thing to say, especially when it comes to the ones she loves most. In the collection’s titular essay, the author struggles to communicate with her teenage daughter until a childhood friend encourages her to do less talking and more listening, a strategy she implements when her father is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In “I Know,” Corrigan’s experience volunteering at a camp for children who have lost someone to cancer reminds her how comforting physical company—rather than apology—can be during times of tragedy and loss. “I Was Wrong,” the funniest entry in the collection, uses a dog, an unflushed toilet, and a parental meltdown to highlight the power and near-impossible difficulty of admitting personal fault. In the deeply affecting entry “Onward,” moving on from tragedy takes on a new weight. With heartfelt humor and penetrating insight, Corrigan uses the pain, anguish, failure, and occasional successes in her life to explore the vital connection between the words we say and the relationships we develop, both with the people around us and ourselves. Punctuated with her signature warmth and unflinching honesty, her introspective musings gush with empathy for every partner, parent, child, or friend who has said the wrong thing at the wrong time. At times laugh-out-loud funny but overwhelmingly bittersweet, this brief book spans time and experience to drive home a seemingly simple but significant message: finding the right words is a lifelong journey. Other phrases include “I Love You” and “No Words at All.”
Moving and deeply personal, Corrigan’s portraits of love and loss urge readers to speak more carefully and hold on tighter to the people they love.