Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tell Me More

Title:  Tell Me More
Author:  Kelly Corrigan
Publication Information:  Random House. 2018. 240 pages.
ISBN:  039958837X / 978-0399588372

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There was no real reason for it to fall apart that morning."

Favorite Quote:  "The other problem with language is that arranging words into sentences requires we flip on our thinking machine, which necessarily claims some of our focus, so that as soon as we start deciding how to explain a feeling, we're not entirely feeling the feeling anymore, and some feelings want to be felt at full capacity."

The subtitle of this book refers to "the 12 hardest things I'm learning to say." That begs the question. What things? The answer is in the chapter titles. It's like this. Tell me more. I don't know. I know. No. Yes. I was wrong. Good enough. I love you. No words at all. Onward. This is it.
As a memoir, this question-based structure implies that the book is more essay-like than a chronological story. Each essay pulls together Ms. Corrigan's experiences that, for her, address the thought of that chapter. The focal point of each essay is the title idea; the personal stories are the supporting evidence. Each essay stands alone. However, the life story can seem to stop abruptly and pick up again at a different point in the book when the same individuals or situations are used in a different chapter. The structure also means that the continuity of the emotion is not there consistently. I find myself feeling the joy and the sadness momentarily, but then the book moves on to something else. Sometimes, it winds its way back to that situation again, but then the emotional connection has to be found again. The point here is to convey the ideas not necessarily tell the story.

The scenarios from Ms. Corrigan's life captured in this book reflect her demographic of a seemingly comfortable lifestyle with a stable home and income; the challenges and lessons described do not stem from that struggle. The situations range from the day to day task of parenting teenagers to the life-changing loss of a parent to the tragic, very premature death of a friend. There are others, but it is these three that stand out to me. The stories of grief touches my heart, and the descriptions of her teenage daughters in particular leave me wondering what her daughters think of the way in which they are portrayed.

The book description refers to Ms. Corrigan's writing as "the streetwise, ever-relatable voice." The ever-relatable aspect is the conversational tone of the book. At times, it reads like a conversation over a cup of tea with a friend, but more often, it is a stream of consciousness thought process related to the idea of the chapter title. It jumps, but as a reader, it takes me longer to follow that jump.

The "streetwise" may refer to her use of what may be at times inappropriate language especially in a household with teenagers. Her humor is often referred to as self-deprecating, but at times it seems too much so. Certain moments of the book reach me, but much of it does not touch an emotional cord.

A book of this nature relies on its feeling of authenticity. That is what creates my connection as a reader. I do not for one second question the authenticity of Ms. Corrigan's experiences or emotions. Just as a book, this telling seems to come across to me as trying too hard to portray that authenticity. Moments touch me, but overall I am not moved. It's not bad, but it does not grab me as I expect it would.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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