The Reality Of It
A Change of Scenery . . . Of Sorts

Read With Us: So, What'd'ja Think?

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Wild Game. Join the discussion (which you can do even if you didn't read the book, you know).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. 

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you (and I promise it's not any surprising "wild game"). Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.


The book begins with an epigraph: Mary Oliver's poem, The Uses of Sorrow


The Uses of Sorrow
Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.


In the book, the author certainly works her way through the "darkness" of her adolescence over the course of her growing up, although according to this interview, I wouldn't say she thinks it was a "gift," exactly. (The writing process itself sounds like it was very cathartic for her; a chance to understand and forgive her mother.)

Do you think the epigraph - Mary Oliver's poem - was a fitting way for Adrienne Brodeur to begin the book? Do you see the darknesses in your own life as gifts, or would you wish some of them away? Is growth possible without suffering?

I can't wait to hear what you think!


The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver originally appeared in Thirst, published in 2006, Beacon Press.



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Hmmm, interesting question Kym. Personaloly, I don't think you need darkness and/or suffering in order to grow. I'm also not sure Adrienne would look at her "darkness" as a gift. As I mentioned on both Carole's and Bonny's blogs, I did not enjoy the book at all. So far removed from anything I experienced growing up, it was difficult to relate to anything in the book. I'm surprised I even finished it! Please don't include me in the prize give-away - you know I already won once!!


I think the poem was the perfect beginning to the book. It gives the reader the sense that something dark is coming and the author acknowledges that darkness. But it also portends that there is some resolution in the story.

It's impossible to go through life without injury...physical, psychic, emotional. The important thing is what you do with that injury. One can work to resolve the issues and learn from them, developing a sense of resilience. Or one can draw into oneself and nurse the injuries for a lifetime. I think Malabar and Adrienne demonstrate those two responses.

I don't think suffering is a requirement for growth. But I do think that suffering can be a stimulus for growth, depending on the response and resources available for healing.

It would seem that this book would invite a lot of projection on the part of the reader, especially for women with a complicated mother/daughter relationship in their lives.

I was impressed by Adrienne's ability to empathize with her mother. However, the story about her daughter in the epilogue made me wonder if she had perhaps over compensated a bit.


I think the poem is a terrific opening for this book and it helped me to recognize that some of the darker things that have happened in my life have, eventually, been good for me. I'd maybe wish some of them away but I'm experienced enough to know that the dark moments make the bright moments all the more bright. And also create room for growth.


I thought the poem was a fitting opening for the book. In my experience, times of darkness can lead to great personal growth, if we are open to the work of growth and change that takes place in the darkness. When I was a therapist I often used an image of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. The caterpillar is plunged into the darkness of the chrysalis, suffers and breaks down, has to work hard to finally free itself, and only then can it see its own transformation into a beautiful butterfly. I don't wish away any of the difficult or dark times of my life, they are a part of who I am and of who I am still becoming.


I like your distinction about suffering not being required for growth, but that suffering can act as a stimulus. Many instances of my own growth have come about from situations that I haven't been happy with and effected change and growth in an effort to change those situations for the better.


I also thought the poem was a perfect opening for the book. I don't exactly see the dark parts of my own life as gifts, but given that darkness and suffering is part of the human condition, I also don't think I would wish them away. Growth is possible without accompanying suffering, but it often provides an impetus for that growth to occur. The yin and yang and the contrast of darkness with light makes me appreciate the light moments much more.


I thought the poem was a good opening for the book. I think when I first started the book I forgot it was a memoir and just read the book over a few days wanting to find out what came next. I found myself yelling in my head at Malabar for most of the book. I think growth is possible without suffering. I also wish some dark spots in my life would go away.


I agree that Mary Oliver’s poem is a fitting start to Adrienne’s memoir. We grow in good times and bad. The gifts in the best of times or situation as easier for us to notice and embrace. When we are in the darkness it might take longer to recognize the gift it gave you. Those gift can often feel bittersweet . Sometimes it might take a lifetime.


I think it was a good start to the book, and I can see why it would resonate with the author. I think growth can come from dark times. But I also think that presumes a certain amount of resilience and strength. Growth is possible without suffering, but we often DO grow as we recover from suffering and adversity.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book, even though at first I struggled to like either Adrienne or especially her mother.


I'm not sure I realized it at the time, but I think it was the perfect opening. I think what I took from it is that even the darkest times in our lives can help to make us better people; we can learn and grow stronger from those dark times just as much as we can grow from the good times. I suspect she chose it because, in retrospect, she realized that for as much damage as her relationship with her mother caused, she is who she is today because of -- not in spite of -- it.


Yes -- resilience! That, I think, is key here. I had the same struggle with reading the book and hating Malabar and Adrienne for their poor decisions, but I also admired Adrienne for having come out of it with the realization that it was a toxic relationship and having the resilience to change her life.


I didn't finish the book (hated it, to be honest, at least as much as I read). But as far as darkness being a gift, I think it has to be. If you can't gain something from the dark moments, your life is going to be difficult. I have had a LOT of darkness in my life (not trying to be melodramatic, it's just the truth) and sometimes it has been a gift in ways I could never have ever known.


I thought the poem was very fitting. I think we can find gifts in the darkness if we are able to sit with the darkness and learn from it. It often feels easier to run from the tough stuff. In the end, this helped me understand why the author needed to write this book.


I thought the poem was perfect for the book. (And though I'm "not a poetry person," I might be becoming one because when would a Mary Oliver poem NOT be perfect? She just seems to have a way... as y'all like to share with us.)

I do not view the dark times in my life as gifts, but I wouldn't be who I am without them. Suffering is an unavoidable part of life... we all experience it. It's not the suffering but our response that makes growth possible... some people do not grow; some are overcome some thrive.

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