07 December, 2021

Finding understanding unexpectedly

I love it when bloggers review books. It sometimes leads me to wonderful books I would never have read. Thanks to Loribeth’s review of Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, I had it on my library wish list, and it popped up in the last week, so I read it. (Given that I have only read 22 books this year, when I had been aiming at 35 at least, that was quite a feat in itself!)

I won’t review it here (Loribeth did such a good job of that), except to say that although it was dark, it was very readable, and not too depressing. There were moments of humour, and some very likeable characters (and some much less likeable, though the reasons for that became apparent at the end), and I read it in just a few days. The reason I am mentioning it here though, is because the issue of wanting or not wanting, having or not having, children became a key point of the book as it went on. And there were a few quotes that I thought were exactly right.

This paragraph, written in the words of the main character, is so perfect. It reflects a number of my experiences in telling people I didn’t have children. It was lovely to read, to laugh at the parented people who apparently say the same things the world over, and to, completely unexpectedly, feel that someone else understands.

“When you are a woman over thirty, with a husband but without children, married couples at parties are interested to know why. They agree with each other that having children is the best thing they have ever done. According to the husband, you should just get on with it; the wife says you don’t want to leave it too late. Privately, they are wondering if there is something medically wrong with you. They wish they could ask directly. Perhaps, if they can outlast your silence, you will offer it up of your own accord. But the wife can’t resist – she has to tell you about a friend of hers who was told the same thing but as soon as she gave up hope … the husband says bingo. In the beginning, I told strangers I couldn’t have children because I thought it would stop them from continuing beyond their initial enquiry. It is better to say you don’t want them. Then they know straight away that there is something wrong with you, but at least not in a medical sense. So the husband can say, oh well, good for you, focusing on your career, even if, to that point, there had been so little evidence of a career being focused on. The wife doesn’t say anything, she is already looking around.

That last line is a killer. Ten simple words perfectly explaining our isolation, regardless of the reasons why we don’t have children.

Another quote talked about coming out of grief and loss, and putting it in some perspective:

“I could see what I’d had now. Everything people want in books, a home, money, to not be alone, all there in the shadow of the one thing I didn’t have.”

I think most of us can recall being “in the shadow” of the one thing we didn’t have, the thing that had taken over our lives. It’s why I don’t really like the explanation that grief doesn't diminish, that it stays with you but you learn to live with it, as life grows around it. I think our lives are always there. But for varying lengths of time, grief can be so large and so dark that it puts everything else into shadows, in the shade, and we forget what we have. Eventually, as time passes and as we allow ourselves to heal, the shadow begins to clear, and our losses take their place with all the other aspects of our lives.

Finally, I loved this so much, because it is, essentially, the message of this blog.

“You were done being hopeless.You were done, you were done, you were done being hopeless.”

I've been there. I hope you have all been there. And the best thing is that we all found new hope elsewhere.


  1. Oh wow, that is so wonderful to see that perspective in a novel. Love the quotes and adding to my list!

  2. Yes!!! All of these quotes are so good!

  3. This writer really gets it.

    And I've always loved the essence of your space here.