“When I got my hands on Claire Dederer’s new book, I instantly turned off my phone, cancelled all my appointments, curled up in bed, and read all day in grateful — and thoughtful — abandon.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things
“A fierce new memoir from the essayist and longtime New York Times contributor. In her debut, Poser (2011), Dederer trained her keen eye and penchant for dry self-deprecation on yoga and motherhood. Here, the author turns to other topics, primarily sex and aging. It seems she had no choice. Ensconced in her apparently perfect life—comfortable house, kind husband, loving kids, career success and recognition—Dederer found herself intermittently and uncomfortably aware of her ‘chaotic past,’ of the ‘disastrous pirate slut of a girl’ who was ‘breathing down my neck.’ One day when she was 44, for reasons not entirely clear, though maybe as simple as the encroachment of middle age or the scent of nostalgia in the air, the latent hungers and preoccupations of her sexually active youth came rushing back, ‘as if a switch is flipped,’ and refused to disappear. A disruptive, unbidden kiss from a man who was not her husband widened the crevice in the wall between her libidinous past and relatively contained, conventional present. Informed by her own diaries—20 of them recovered from boxes scattered throughout the basement—the author dedicated herself to considering the ‘horrible girl’ she once was, examining her from a variety of angles to face her head-on and bravely mulling disquieting questions of identity and purpose. With candor and humor, Dederer dives deeply into her sexual history, which began with an unwelcome encounter at age 13, continued through her teenage explorations based around Seattle’s University Avenue in the early 1980s, and into her unhappy time at Oberlin and beyond. Along the way, she contemplates power and victimhood and the battle, or balance, between freedom and safety. Dederer is unstintingly honest and unafraid as she excavates her motivations and reservations, her fantasies, and the implications of the choices she has made – and those she has yet to make. Insightful, provocative, and fearlessly frank, Dederer seduces readers with her warmth, wit, and wisdom.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Love and Trouble is a ferociously intelligent, blazingly funny new memoir from the New York Times best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.
When Claire Dederer turned 44 she began to have what she describes as “a lot of extremely inconvenient feelings”—feelings of recklessness, of impatience, along with a kind of voluptuous erotic reawakening. After the wildness of youth, and the bliss and captivity of motherhood, she experienced at midlife a sudden yearning for jailbreak. Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning shifts between her present experience as a middle-aged mom in the grip of unruly and mysterious new hungers, and her recollection of herself as a teenager—the last time she experienced life with such heightened sensitivity and longing.
With extraordinary insight, ingenuity and wit, Love and Trouble toggles back and forth between youth and middle age—two vastly different periods that upon examination Dederer discovers are actually uncannily similar in their emotional intensity. From her hilarious chapter titles (“How to Have Sex with Your Husband of 15 Years;” “Recidivist Slutty Tendencies in the pre AIDS Adolescent Female”) to her irresistible voice and formal caprice—a scathing letter to Roman Polanski on the occasion of her daughter’s 13th birthday; a history of ruinous kisses; a geography of Seattle in the 80s; the ABCs of Oberlin (and the girls from Saint Ann’s: “When I left Oberlin I thought I was done with them forever, but it turned out they also edited all the magazines, and wrote all the books”)—Dederer captures the perils and pleasures of girlhood, womanhood, and life itself.
“Love and Trouble is the most surprising and subversive memoir I’ve read in years. Come for what you think is a standard midlife crisis story. Stay for the luminous, gritty map of Seattle in the eighties and nineties; the perfectly recalled angst of adolescence; the dark midnights of men and whiskey; the intelligent meditations on women, their vulnerability and sexuality. Put the book down with gratitude for the Claire Dededer’s unshrinking honesty and mastery of her material.”
–Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
“Love and Trouble is a welcome deep-dive into Claire Dederer’s girl self and grown self, and the way the two have overlapped and pulled apart over time. This knowing and original memoir abounds with intelligence, wit, earned nostalgia, and an impressive degree of understanding about no less than being female and becoming a person.”
–Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings and The Wife
“Love and Trouble is unlike any memoir I’ve ever read: formally inventive and wise, have-to-put-the-book-down funny yet somehow tinged with grief. And the sentences! They simply sing. I’ve never thought so deeply, or in so many different modes, about my own sexuality, femininity, and motherhood. Though I don’t mean to suggest that this is a book just for women—I kept reading passages aloud to my husband, as a way of asking him to understand something essential about me, and about himself, and about marriage in general. I began reading Love and Trouble thinking Dederer was writing about herself; halfway through I decided she was writing about me. By the time I finished I realized she’d written to me, and to my daughters—to all of us.”
–Jamie Quatro, author of I Want to Show You More
“In equal parts hilarious and haunting, Love and Trouble captures the ways in which our past selves are never really past. In loose, edgy, confident prose, Claire Dederer peels back layer after layer of herself as an erotic creature, and in so doing, has crafted a book that grabs the reader in an utterly visceral way. This is an exciting, daring memoir.”
–Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion