Rated Reads

Heartbroken Open: A Memoir Through Loss to Self-Discovery

by Kristine Carlson

Rated: Moderate

Kristine Carlson not only became a widow far too young, she experienced it publicly: her husband, Richard, was the bestselling author of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series of self-help books. She saw her idyllic life shattered in an instant, when she got the phone call telling her that her husband had died (at the age of 45) of a pulmonary embolism on a flight to New York. As devastated as she was, however, she refused to try to find an “easy way” through her grief: to dull it or distract herself somehow. Rather, she vowed to feel the grief fully, to let it lead her to a new place, through a valley of growth.

In Heartbroken Open, Carlson shares the path “through loss to self-discovery” that she walked in the months after her husband’s death. She shares her feelings about him, about the deep connection and love that they shared for 25 years, some of the life lessons they learned together, and the feelings she sorted through and allowed to move through her. She talks about her gratitude for a wonderful set of friends, for two men who were there for her at different times, for the ways that she was blessed with just what she needed at the right times. She describes how she ached for her two teenage daughters and how she was appreciative of their connection through the process. She shares her fear, her anger, her rawness of loss, her body’s physical reactions to the grief. She strives through it all to be open, to share the depths of her experience in order to allow others to learn from it.

Readers who were devoted fans of the Carlsons will likely eat up this book. However, it could go different ways for other readers. Carlson is absolutely sincere in her belief system, but some of the New Age-y-ness of it could turn off some readers. She talks about visiting the guru who was “an integral part of (the couple’s) spiritual grounding;” about “mystical experiences,” “energy” and “light.” Some of it is inspiring; at times, however, I felt I was wading through a bit of “hoo-hah.” It just seemed a bit much in parts. Again, these references will have widely varying impacts on readers, depending on their points of view.

Those who are enmeshed in grief will find at least a few things to appreciate and learn from in Heartbroken Open. Kristine Carlson is honest about all the feelings she experiences, and at least some of those experiences will strike a chord in those who have traveled their own paths of sorrow. It’s interesting reading.

Rated: Moderate, for three uses of strong language and a few uses of moderate and mild language. There are some mild, brief sexual references and some allusion to “self-pleasuring.”

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Heartbroken Open: A Memoir Through Loss to Self-Discovery
  • by Kristine Carlson
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: