Author: Emily White
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Harper Publishing
Genre: Memoir; Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
My Thoughts: Emily White, in her memoir Lonely, sets out to explain and de-stigmatize the little understood but wide ranging condition of loneliness. As she puts it, "to give voice to an experience that mattered, one that affected people far and wide". Though I found this book eye opening, informative and very well written, it was, at times, too clinical. It was during those parts of the book that I found myself overwhelmed by research studies. It took the book out of the realm of "memoir". Too often, for the majority of lay people looking to learn about loneliness as a condition, Lonely reads more like a scientific thesis or text book study.
That's not to say there isn't a wealth of relatable and very human information the author provides about herself. It's when Ms. White is discussing her personal experiences that I found myself unable to put the book down. It left me wanting more. Her personal story is honest and raw. She admits to being nervous about leaving herself open and vulnerable in revealing her experience with loneliness, but she doesn't hold back which I found quite admirable. Ms. White was told by those closest to her that admitting to loneliness and writing about it is something to be embarrassed about, that it was trivial and "not real", making her candor all the more courageous. Reactions such as this also made Ms. White all the more determined to show the world that "there is nothing wrong with loneliness" and there's "no need for the shame and self-blame it creates".
Ms. White started a blog about loneliness with the desire to find other lonely people. She occasionally shares their experiences coping with loneliness throughout her memoir. But, as with her own story, Ms. White only provides tidbits of their stories here and there to illustrate the findings of the research studies. It's because Ms. White didn't share more about her story or the stories of these other people that I was disappointed. In her zeal to make loneliness understood, Ms. White gets carried away explaining it in clinical terms. This makes those parts of the book dry and somewhat sterile. Her writing is so good and her story so compelling, the book would have held up just fine with more personal anecdotes less clinical references.
I'm not saying it's not a good book. It is. It's just that, as a memoir, it might be mislabeled. When I am told a book is a memoir, I expect something akin to an autobiography. As I explained above, the book is (only) about 30% memoir, the rest being references to and citations from studies, scientific research, and accounts from other people. I would insist that anyone who wants to learn about loneliness as a real condition read this book. The author does achieve her goal of getting the reader to look at loneliness beyond the "mainstream" perception. Usually, someone sitting down to a TV dinner by themselves every night because they are socially inept. As if it's a choice. Like depression, it's a real problem. Unlike depression, there's no universal treatment or help for it, although that's coming, hopefully. Loneliness as a condition is unique and complex and shouldn't be trivialized. So read this book if you want to learn more than you ever imagined applied to loneliness, just be forewarned this is not some tell-all confessional but a smart and well researched book with a definite purpose. Ms. White is very good with research, but don't make the mistake that it's because of the loneliness. Loneliness and solitude are not the same, which she wisely makes us aware. However, it's unfortunate that too often Ms. White hides behind the fruits of the research, using it in an academic, impersonal manner when her own story is already quite captivating and inspiring.
Emily White has a corresponding blog at which she blogs about loneliness, her cats and other aspects of her life.
I won Lonely from Bookin' with Bingo and reviewed for TLC Book Tours.