The Days of Abandonment

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I'm not sure when I decided that I had to read an Elena Ferrante novel. I had been clued into the hype for a long time--EVERYBODY recommended her My Brilliant Friend series, but I didn't find myself falling for the hype. It was just another thing people loved to talk about just to talk about, like avocado toast or Snapchat filters. But then, Gabby Noone,nail polish influencer and my idol, mentioned that she had just finished the first book in the MBF series and all of a sudden I was like, all over that shit. I decided to read a book outside of the series, just incase I didn't love it and then I wouldn't feel obligated to finish the series. I grabbed Days of Abandonment when I went to the Strand (!!) which gives it an extra element of specialness.

The book took me longer to finish than expected; it's barely 200 pages but is so intense, the emotion so tangible that I had to take a break from it for a few days. The book is about a woman named Olga, whose husband one day declares that he's leaving her and is gone so quickly, I could barely close my mouth from the shock. The abandonment completely overtakes Olga and she is submerged in a haze of feelings she can't comprehend. She becomes disconnected from her body, her life, her children. and as she seeks to understand her husband's choices and her future without him, she falls deeper and deeper into abandonment. 

One of the most difficult parts of reading the book was that Olga's feelings were so intense, so raw, that the more she descended into abandonment, the more I felt as if I was losing grip with myself. There were moments when I want to grab Olga and shake her and scream at her; I felt like doing the same to myself. Ferrante writes as if she is laying everything bare and it's rare to experience such emotion in words. When I read the last page of Days of Abandonment I felt exhausted--like I'd been caught in some rapids and barely made it. That's how books should make you feel, isn't it?

Love is a 1000 Piece Puzzle

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I've never been in (romantic) love before but like any optimistic heroine in a Katherine Heigl-style romantic comedy, I am lovesick. I am intrigued by love--it's complexities, it's vulnerabilities, it's enigmatic nature. No matter what I learn about love, I still don't have it figured out. But after reading Rookie on Love, the newest book to come out of the RookieMag universe, I felt more excited about love than I had in a long time. What the book does particularly well is immediately establish that there is no one story about love. While that seems fairly obvious, it can be hard to believe when every movie about love (even the "indie" ones) follows the same formula and pattern, and rarely captures the nuance of the emotion. The writers in Rookie on Love are a diverse group of people with different experiences of love so the lessons that come out of their experience are varied. Because of this, I felt like I was being guided by 20+ older siblings all armed with a beautiful and relevant lesson to teach me. This is the magic of the book: it is both a guide and companion--it made me feel understood and cared for in a moment when I felt like pain was just pain, and life was hopeless. Essays like Danielle Henderson's "You First" reminded me of the importance of saying yes to myself (and my future and my happiness) as an act of self-love. In Gabourey Sidibe’s insightful and hilarious essay “Karma”, she writes about making mistakes in love and finding love that you deserve. The book is not about figuring out a definitive statement about love--it's about saying "I'm figuring it out" and being ok with that.