Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey

Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey

by Florence Williams
Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey

Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey

by Florence Williams


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Winner of the 2023 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

A Five Books "Best Literary Science Writing" Book of 2023 • A Smithsonian Best Science Book of 2022 • A Prospect Magazine Top Memoir of 2022 • A KCRW Life Examined Best Book of 2022

"Keen observer [and] deft writer" (David Quammen) Florence Williams explores the fascinating, cutting-edge science of heartbreak while seeking creative ways to mend her own.

When her twenty-five-year marriage suddenly falls apart, journalist Florence Williams expects the loss to hurt. But when she starts feeling physically sick, losing weight and sleep, she sets out in pursuit of rational explanation. She travels to the frontiers of the science of "social pain" to learn why heartbreak hurts so much—and why so much of the conventional wisdom about it is wrong.

Soon Williams finds herself on a surprising path that leads her from neurogenomic research laboratories to trying MDMA in a Portland therapist’s living room, from divorce workshops to the mountains and rivers that restore her. She tests her blood for genetic markers of grief, undergoes electrical shocks while looking at pictures of her ex, and discovers that our immune cells listen to loneliness. Searching for insight as well as personal strategies to game her way back to health, she seeks out new relationships and ventures into the wilderness in search of an extraordinary antidote: awe.

With warmth, daring, wit, and candor, Williams offers a gripping account of grief and healing. Heartbreak is a remarkable merging of science and self-discovery that will change the way we think about loneliness, health, and what it means to fall in and out of love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324003496
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 02/01/2022
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 26,159
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

A contributing editor at Outside magazine, Florence Williams is the author of Breasts, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and The Nature Fix. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, and many other outlets. She lives in Washington, DC.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Shatter

1 Bridge to Nowhere 11

2 The Heart 19

3 Hindu Kush 31

4 A Costly Life Event 42

5 OG Sin 56

Part 2 Alone

6 All Pain Is One Malady: Rejection 73

7 Heartbreak Hotel: Grief 82

8 Welcome to the Eremocene: Attachment 94

9 Your Cells Are Listening 107

10 The Body Doesn't Lie 114

11 Shaggy Birds 132

12 The Wizards of Lonesome 142

Part 3 Awe

13 Truth Serum, Part One 155

14 High Island: Warmth 164

15 Excuse My Piloerection: The Science of Awe 175

16 Split Mountain 183

17 Confluence 203

18 The Happiness That Matters: Social Well-Being 218

19 Truth Serum, Part Two 226

20 The Divorce Drug 231

21 Open Sesame 241

22 Man in the Kastle: Opioids, Love, and the Science of Recovery 251

23 The Future of Heartbreak 260

24 The Personality of the Body 265

25 A Boat of Lettuce 271

Acknowledgments 277

Notes 280

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