In this collection of very personal essays, she tells deeply private stories about herself, many of which don’t cast her in a positive light. As she herself says in the “Reading Group Guide” at the end of the book, the stories show “how foolish, selfish, and tiresome I can be.” Usually when we tell total strangers our life story, we gussy it up a bit. Not Kelly Corrigan. She is brutally honest—so much so that when I read some of these story-essays, I didn’t like her very much. And then I remembered how courageous she is for sharing this way, stripping away the fake veneer and showing us who she is and the lessons she has learned.
The 12 hardest things Corrigan is learning to say are also the 12 hardest things we ALL must learn to say. From admitting “I don’t know” to “I was wrong” and from lovingly saying “tell me more” to “I love you,” this is almost a guidebook of how to use what you say to be a good human, a responsible human, a loving human.
The writing is magnificent. The story-essays are all intriguing. And the resounding messages—it’s fine to say no sometimes, you really are good enough even when you mess up big time, and grief is hard work—aren’t based on cheesy 1970s inspirational posters but rather Corrigan’s hard-earned life experiences.
Just know this: The first chapter, titled “It’s Like This,” is difficult to read. Corrigan is in the throes of grieving for her beloved father, and she takes out her denial, anger, and sadness about his death on those she loves best, including herself. For anyone who has ever experienced intense grief, this chapter will resonate. Just know going in that this is not the tone of the rest of the 11 story-essays.
Read it and then share it with a friend. It’s that kind of book.