"Even a well-worn topic can become the occasion for stunningly original writing, and such is the case with McColl’s exquisite memoir,
Joy Enough.... McColl’s gift is in distilling a lifetime — the relationships, hopes nurtured then dashed, joys still sought, even at life’s end — into vignettes of great beauty, ordinary moments held up for loving examination.... The book begins, slyly enough, with a literary question: ‘I loved my mother, and she died. Is that a story?’ It turns out that the answer is yes, and if the mother is anything like Allison, you will want to read it, and to know her."
"In beautiful, spare prose, Sarah McColl offers an elegant and deeply-felt meditation on loss that is steeped in the pleasures of this life: in good bread and soft sweaters, friendship, flirtation, and especially love.
Joy Enough is a memoir about the death of a mother and a marriage, yes, but more than that, it’s about the new life that can spring from those empty spaces. A gorgeous, painful, exhilarating debut."
"Some books are so profound they need to be shared immediately. Others are so sacred, you can't bear to loan them out.
Joy Enough is both—so consider buying two copies. McColl's remarkable, pitch-perfect memoir is an exploration of the choices we make, and the ones beyond our control. Within that is a masterfully written, musically paced narrative that rocks awake your emotional center. It's not simply that McColl is a uniquely gifted writer—she is—it's that she's generous with her gifts. This book has a transformative, healing quality—it's the kind of book that will remain your dear friend, that will be there for you, long after you've finished the last page."
"What if the greatest love you ever had was your mother? In sensuous and elliptical prose, Sarah McColl takes us into the small spaces that contain a life, revealing both the emptiness left by the loss of her mother and the joy that endures. I was intoxicated by this book from start to finish. McColl has a superfan now."
"Written with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and heart's beating.... McColl's resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy."
Joy Enough is so compelling that I stayed up most of the night while traveling by train in a sleeper car. Sarah McColl’s exquisite memoir is the perfect balm for anyone who has experienced the sharp sting of loneliness or inhabited the liminal space between grief and happiness."
"Beautifully tender; a deceptively delicate slow-burn story of grief and love and the desire to hold close those we love."
Sophie Mackintosh. Booker Longlisted author of The Water Cure
"Oh, my heart.
Joy Enough is a stunningly beautiful and meditative map of loss—a mother, a marriage, an idea of what life is supposed to be. In prose both poetic and laser-focused, Sarah McColl gives us the seemingly small and gut-punch memories that make up the truth about living through loss and living through love: a garden, a grocery list; a regret, a realization; that thing he said that we wish we could forget and that thing she said that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our goddamn lives. I will carry this book with me for the rest of my goddamn life: a manual, a friend, an inspiration."
Joy Enough is a diamond in book form, a beauty forged by the weight of loss and learning. It stunned me with its taut clarity, with the way it probes - quietly, gently, unflinchingly - the parts of life that a lot of us don't like to look at: death, divorce, the pleasures and pitfalls of the body. This may be Sarah McColl's debut, but it's a towering achievement by any standard. McColl has a rare talent, and it shines."
"It doesn’t take long to find yourself in McColl’s rhythm, attuned to the beautiful colors and fragrances and tastes that lodge themselves in our memories.... McColl’s argument — that these small moments make up a life, that these small moments are life – is persuasive, and it is presented with humor and charm.... This is a book about an extraordinary figure who was a housewife, mother, and divorcee. The word ‘mother’ doesn’t entirely do her justice, and yet that’s what this memoir does: does her justice, in more than a summarizing word."
"How can a memoirist take as her subject such a dark night of the soul—a simultaneous divorce and the death of a beloved mother—and forge such greedy, life-affirming grace? Sarah McColl’s dense and lyrical narrative vignettes are rich with insight and enlivened with humor.
Joy Enough will fill every reader with joy."
Joy Enough resonates with the immediacy of a love letter and the dark wonder of a dream. A tender, candid, force field of an elegy, compressed and expansive at once."
A debut memoir focused on divorce and death.
Beginning with her own youth, essayist McColl, the founding editor-in-chief of
Yahoo Food, notes that her mother was her "spiritual home," and she venerates her mother on almost every page of the book. Looking back, the author recalls her mother as a colorful mixture of wisdom and sensuality whose role as a mother was perhaps the ultimate aspect of her personality. Her parents' divorce shattered McColl's world for a time, leaving her even more invested in her mother as her basis for stability. The author eventually married, beginning a long road to divorce. McColl's descriptions of her ex-husband do not immediately elicit sympathy; the couple simply drifted apart, the husband toward his career, the wife toward her dying mother. "I loved my husband," she writes, "and then I didn't. Is that a story?" Throughout the book, the author sets her narration against the backdrop of her mother's illness, an era that clearly affected nearly everything else in her life. Her mother's eventual death left McColl with "a roiling grief" so great and traumatic that she even decided against her therapist's suggestion of a grief counseling group: "Someone else might know loss, but no one could understand mine." Though poignant in spots, the book is nearly devoid of hope or significant life lessons; it is ultimately a study in sadness and seemingly relentless unhappiness brought on by chronic grief and relational ennui. As a writer, McColl is introspective and attempts to be inventive, but much of the prose demonstrates an author trying too hard: "The sound of fireworks in the distance. Here, fireflies. I wanted to tie myself up in his arms and he wanted to be the rope."
A depressing and often cloying memoir that may hold some appeal for readers in similar circumstances with a penchant for dwelling on heartache.
In this compact memoir, newcomer McColl details her memories of the most amazing person she's ever known—her mother. The author spent a year and a half caring for her dying mother even as her own young marriage fell apart. Through sparse yet shimmering prose, readers will come to know McColl's mother as well: a woman who enjoyed a good sunset, a bike ride, a blooming peony bush. She appreciated life's simple pleasures and encouraged those she loved to do so as well, inspiring McColl to become the kind of woman she wanted to be and face the end of her withering marriage. It is only by wading knee-deep in grief that she learns how to start living again. VERDICT Even though McColl's story fits neatly into the genre of "grief memoir," it is utterly hopeful. An unforgettable debut. —Erin Shea, Ferguson Lib., CT