By CJ Hauser
My Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.14
Publication Date: February 1st, 2022
Format Read: Audiobook
Goodreads Summary: CJ Hauser expands on her viral essay sensation, “The Crane Wife,” in a brilliant collection of essays that echo the work of Cheryl Strayed in their revelatory observations of romantic love.
CJ Hauser uses her now-beloved title essay as an anchor around which to explore, through excavation of both her own personal and larger familial hope chest of ‘love stories, ‘ the narratives of romantic love we are taught and which we tell ourselves, and the need to often rewrite those narratives to find an accurate version of ourselves in them. Covering ground ranging from her and her relatives’ own romantic pasts to the much wider natural, supernatural, and cultural worlds, CJ relates the family legacies and lessons she imbibed in her youth, and the relationships formed in echo of those lessons, which helped to shape her early understanding of love and life.
Emerging from the rigorous honesty and radical empathy of these twenty pieces, CJ relinquishes the idea of a single, permanent love story–in favor of the metaphor of a happy haunted house as a space that contains many stories, many pasts, and multiple histories. These are hopeful pieces, which address the pain and complication of living in the present while being informed by things that have happened in one’s past, and the kind of energy and spirit necessary to attempt love, again and again.
I didn’t know what to expect when I first started CJ Hauser’s memoir in essays, The Crane Wife. I quite literally had no idea who Hauser was, nor what the book was supposed to be about. It simply came up in the list of audiobooks that were recommended for me, and then I downloaded it. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am for that choice.
Through her essays, Hauser wove a deep narrative that brought us into the very essence of who she was. I began to understand the way that she looked at love, and the way that she behaved began to make sense. Many of Hauser’s stories were not relatable to me at the surface level. She is older than I am, has dated men with children, owned a house, and been a professional writer. I, on the other hand, am a 22 year old living in a rented apartment in which I spend most of my free time writing from my bed and posting it on the internet for free. Our life stages are very different, to say the least.
Still, regardless of how old you are or what stage of a relationship you are in, the way Hauser twists the past and the present to create stories and evoke imagery is masterful. When she spoke about her grandfather, I found pieces of my own grandparents in that. In her conversations about her sister’s full house, about the way she feared her own house to be too big before it was filled by friends, I was reaffirmed in the power of friendships and romantic love not as an end all be all but as an accomplice to a happy life.
I felt empowered by her stories not because she was trying to sell me on a fake narrative of empowerment, but because in the way she told the stories of her fears, failures, and triumphs, I found emotional mirrors in my own life easily. Hauser is a master at forcing us to see inside of ourselves, and this memoir did that for me in the most raw and powerful way.
I fell in love with this book, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a memoir that’s easy to get into and hard to put down.