Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Glitter and Glue, is both the best friend you want to have and the best friend you aspire to be. Christened “The Poet Laureate of the Ordinary” by the Huffington Post, she skillfully weaves together the profound with the mundane, the hilarious with the heartbreaking. I read her latest book, Tell Me More, in one train ride from Boston to New York, and it felt as if she were sitting next to me, chatting over coffee — or maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
The heart of Tell Me More, inspired by the deaths of her father and close friend, Liz, is human connection and the lost art of meaningful, face-to-face conversation. Each chapter is dedicated to a phrase that when said aloud can cultivate intimacy, invite vulnerability, and deepen our connection to another person: “I know.” “I was wrong.” “Tell me more.”
Corrigan is a gifted storyteller. Wise but never preachy, each chapter reads like a mini-memoir. Her stories manage to capture both the “tragic and the trivial;” full of humor, but at the same time, an aching sadness. Corrigan’s struggle to reconcile these two realities – that people we love will get sick and die but someone still needs to take out the recycling – is the thread that ties these poignant essays together. I went from weeping over her final conversations with her dying father to laughing out loud at her dog’s infatuation with the contents of the toilet bowl to nodding in agreement as her teenage daughters duke it out over a $9 shirt from Target.
In sharing these experiences, she shows that there is always an opportunity to connect amid the chaos. I walked away from this book with valuable, actionable lessons: Master the art of a proper apology (“I was wrong”). Shut up and let the other person talk (“tell me more”). It’s ok to not have all the answers (“I don’t know”). And perhaps most importantly, recognize that “the reach of language can be laughable,” and sometimes, silence is the only answer. Corrigan reminds us that “we can hold each other without touching, and cheer each other without saying a word.”
Kelly Corrigan is a beautiful writer who can take my breath away with gems like this one: “Hearts don’t idle; they swell and constrict and break and forgive and behold because it’s like this, having a heart.” But what makes her writing refreshing is her relatability and guileless admission of her own quirks and imperfections. How can you not love a woman who admits to physically cutting herself out of a newly-purchased-online-but-much-too-small shirt from JCrew (Final sale!)? That is a writer who has my heart forever.