Joseph Edwin Haeger

Book Review: So Sad Today by Melissa Broder

Joseph Edwin Haeger reviews So Sad Today by Melissa Broder.

 

Toward the end of Melissa Broder’s book of personal essays, So Sad Today, she felt if she were “to admit to myself that I was sad meant it was real.” Why else are we so drawn to sad pieces of art? We want to know we’re not alone in our despair. Reaching out to people who can relate makes us feel a little less lonely. In these brutally honest pages, Broder understands the sentiment and even lets us know her whole goal was to “connect with you on a deep and true level while I am still on this earth, and maybe even after I am off it.”

The first essay tackles the idea that we are not complicit in our existence. Another force—our parents—decided we should exist and took it upon themselves to create us without our consent. This is an interesting outlook that could be used as a starting point for rejecting any responsibility for our actions. As the book moves further into clinical depression, anxiety, and different unseen illnesses, Broder had an opportunity to hit hard on this cosmic refusal for responsibility, but she doesn’t. She continually takes the brunt of responsibility for all the bad stuff and takes on the task of gaining control of her life.

In one of the more effective essays, “I Told You Not to Get the Knish: Marriage and Illness,” she illustrates the life her and her husband have built. It’s been difficult because he had an ailment leaving him bedridden for months at a time with no cure. After years of doctor visits, they came to the determination he had a chronic neuroimmune disease. The first half of the essay focuses on how the illness was a third party in their relationship and the pains it took for them to deal with this wedge. The second half of the essay centers on how one way they tried to make room for the illness was to open up their sexual relationship. This is where we see the two of them work as individual people as opposed to a team—but spoiler: being individuals made them stronger as a team. It was also an opportunity for her to learn more about herself in how she reacts to relationships. I thought it was an interesting point when they opened up their relationship, she seemed to fall more in love with her husband; instead of seeing him as a fixture, he was now this fluid person who could be objectified. She began to see him through the eyes of women he would potentially be sleeping with and that made their love fresh.

I wouldn’t call these funny essays, but there is a definite flavor of humor. It’s a dark humor coming straight from the level of honesty Broder employs. She has a conversational tone working in favor of the book, because there wasn’t a moment when I expected her to answer the why, but instead simply presented the what and the when, then gave us free rein to do with the information as we saw fit. It’s a trust in the reader that is second to none and I applaud her for the bravery of this decision.

In the end, I think we aren’t provided with the answers we were hoping to find in the pages of a book called So Sad Today. Broder will continue being sad and just because she was able to open up to us about what makes her sad, she provides us with more questions than she can answer. She is writing through her pain and illness and maybe in doing so she hoped to find an answer, but in the end is aware “there is this other part of me that must really want to live. I don’t have scientific proof of its existence, and I don’t need it. I’m still alive. So I know it’s there.”

 

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Joseph Edwin Haeger

Joseph Edwin Haeger is the author of Learn to Swim (University of Hell Press, 2015). His writing has appeared in The Pacific NW Inlander, RiverLit, Hippocampus Magazine, and others. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his wife and son.

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