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I am a new fan of anthologies. I’ve not read many in the past, but since I’ll soon be published in one and since I know so many people who have published an anthology or have been published in an anthology, they’ve started to take up more space in my reading pile.
I first learned of “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends” and the HerStories Project through Facebook announcements. Many of my friends excitedly announced their submissions were included in the book. Because there are so many writers in this book that I admire, I was even more excited to read it.
One caveat, though: my old prejudices don’t die easily, and that was the case as I started to read “My Other Ex.” I worried that I’d grow weary of all the ‘me, myself and I’ stories. I thought (mistakenly) that surely there couldn’t be 35 distinct voices when each essay focused on one theme.
I was wrong.
I found myself tripping through memory lane as I read my way through the book. I thought of a couple elementary and middle school friends that I lost touch with when we went to different high schools. I thought of high school friends that I miss right this very minute, and how I feel guilty for not reaching out more, not making the time to meet for dinner like we promised we’d do, not finding a way to make sure we each know what’s going on each other’s lives.
I thought of my college roommate. After I left Chicago we lost touch, and I’m still sore that she threw away the itty bitty, artificial Christmas tree that I’d been so proud to buy for our first Christmas in our grown-up, we’re-so-out-of-the-dorms-apartment. I’ll never forget the message she left for me on my answering machine, so confidently and glibly declaring that she doesn’t run a storage unit and she threw it in the dumpster when I flew home after graduation and she moved into her roomy two-bedroom walk up in a gorgeous part of Chicago.
I thought of the women who’ve come into my life either for a short time or for too many years to count. I thought of how they’ve each taught me something only they could teach, made me laugh in a way only they can do or inspire me to be a better friend—a better woman—by their mere presence in my life.
Like any other book, there were chapters that touched me more than others. A few stories that stuck with me long past reading were written by Angela Amman, Arnebya Herndon, Cheryl Suchos, Suzanne Barston, Lea Grover and Kristin Vanderhey Shaw.
I think the reason I loved this anthology as much as I did is because it’s real. There’s no sugar coating; sometimes relationships are happy and they end well, sometimes they don’t. Each and every essay included reflects on something that’s intimate and painful, to varying degrees. The writers are vulnerable and honest. I think the foreward said it perfectly:
“The heartache and the agony in these essays is authentic. This isn’t an easy, breezy beach read. You will hurt for the women telling their stories, feel some intense feels, re-grieve your own losses, and within these words about loss, quite possibly come to the realization that an impending one might be coming your way.”
—From the Foreword by Nicole Knepper of Moms Who Drink and Swear
I have no doubts I’ll come back to this book at various times through my life, and I’ll probably pass it along to friends and maybe even my daughter as she grows up. That’s the mark of a great, book, I think: it lives on after the final page has turned, and gains nuance and meaning as our own experiences ebb and flow.
Disclaimer: I was given an advanced digital copy of “My Other Ex.” All opinions are my own.
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