When I was a seven-year old girl living in suburban New Jersey, I wanted more than anything to know what it was like to be a different person. Mind melds and body switching not an option, I dove into books. There, I rode the best pony in the world, outwitted evildoers, wore silk ballgowns, outran the mean guys, and trailed fairy dust in my wake. It was joyous life writ large and felt in all its glorious, wild, full chaos.
These days, I still read with ferocious passion. I want to be moved. I want to be forever different — better — for having ridden around in the head, the heart, and experiences of another human being.
I opened Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant with that expectation. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing happened. I sped to the end thinking that there had to be something more, something moving and insightful. Coming to its awkward conclusion, I closed the book glad to be finished slogging through a stunning, inert read and colossal disappointment.
Somehow, this story about a woman losing a beloved life partner to death has been processed into a carefully built, artfully crafted bunch of words. There is no plot, there is no drama, there is nothing there. Where there is reflection, it is upon a study, upon anecdotes about someone else, upon obligatory acknowledgement that extraordinary resources and special circumstance spared Ms. Goldberg the common jolts and shocks that many widows experience. Possibly more of the nitty gritty specifics of her daily life complete with mess, snot, and stumbles would help bring her story to life for the rest of us.
Option B is all head and no heart. What I read was the blind pain and predictable moments of a grief observed from a safe distance resulting in an endless, soft and unfathomable mess. I kept hoping for more, wanting to see beyond the curtain to the real person doing her best to make sense of a terrible loss and figure out what comes next.
The heart and soul of her story could be there. Occasional passages do deliver — such as wedding vows and specific family moments. However, these are only rare glints of powerful, gripping story gold.
The story of a person finding a way to live well after unbearable loss is important and timely (especially as us Baby Boomers head into old age). I’ll keep looking for the one that takes me into the experience and out the other side.