Saturday, 3 June 2017

A Manual For Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink @CathyReadsBooks @picadorbooks @CamillaElworthy

When Cathy Rentzenbrink was still a teenager, her happy family was torn apart by an unthinkable tragedy. 
In A Manual for Heartache she describes how she learnt to live with grief and loss and find joy in the world again. She explores how to cope with life at its most difficult and overwhelming and how we can emerge from suffering forever changed, but filled with hope.
This is a moving, warm and uplifting book that offers solidarity and comfort to anyone going through a painful time, whatever it might be. It's a book that will help to soothe an aching heart and assure its readers that they're not alone.

A Manual For Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink is published in hardback by Picador on 29 June 2017 and is the author's second book. I read and reviewed her first, The Last Act of Love here on Random Things in July 2015.

Life hurts .... yes, it does. Yes, it bloody well does, and often. Cathy Rentzenbrink begins her book with those two words, and wonders why we are surprised that life hurts us. I like to think we are constantly surprised each time life takes a great big bite out of us because, on the whole, we want to believe that life it great, and fun and full of wonderful things. And, yes, it is, but when it decides to turn against us, it hurts so much, and that hurt is often overwhelming, and hard to deal with. It's often difficult to believe that life will ever be pain free again.

My copy of A Manual for Heartache is full of turned-down page corners; marking some wonderful and wise words that I am determined to remember when life begins to feel sore. When Cathy Rentzenbrink published her first book; The Last Act of Love, she exposed her inner-most feelings, she was so brutally honest about how her brother's death affected her, her words within that book have stayed with me for the two years since I read it.

Writing that book didn't heal the author, or take away all of the pain. She's frankly honest within the pages of this latest book about her depression, and how it can floor her for days. She's also done a wonderful thing by sharing her own coping strategies here for other people. Those of us who have experienced personal heartbreak can only benefit from reading A Manual for Heartache, a book that the author herself describes as "a verbal cuddle, or a loving message in a bottle - tossed into the sea to wash up at the feet of someone in need."

Although this book is short and slim (and very beautifully presented), it is absolutely packed full of down to earth wisdom. Cathy Rentzenbrink's  understanding of the human psyche is not the result of years of psychological study, it is down to her truly empathic nature. She realises that some people find it very difficult to talk to someone who is going through heartbreak, she doesn't criticise but she offers solutions. She offers ways of making sure that we can truly care for someone in crisis without being patronising, or frightened ... but by being human, and kind and true.

I really do urge everyone to buy a copy of this book, read it and keep it. Every single one of us will find something in there that will help us, at some point in our life. If you are one of the 'one in four' who have a mental illness; if you lose a loved one, there is something to help you. It doesn't matter if your heartache is personal to you, or is the result of some far flung politician's decision, or due to a terrible story you saw on the news. The author talks about how feeling powerless doesn't mean that we can't do little things to make things feel better, and for me, this was the part of the book that had most effect. As I watch Question Time, or hear Trump's latest speech and feel my heart aching for our future, I will write down five good things about life, or eat cheese on toast, or kiss my husband, and hope that those small, good things will lessen the pain.

A Manual for Heartache is required reading, it is uplifting and wise and truly wonderful.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Cathy Rentzenbrink was born in Cornwall, grew up in Yorkshire and now lives in London, where she works as a writer and journalist.

She is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling memoir The Last Act of Love, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize

Follow her on Twitter @CathyReadsBooks 

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