Anyone who has gone through a bad breakup, or helped a friend through one, knows that healing is more than using or lending your hankie. It can be a process of grieving, the stages so important they should be capitalized, Kubler-Ross style: Shock, Numbness, Denial, Anger, everlasting Sadness. What will mend a broken heart in the end is time, distance and the ability to laugh.
Another Book About Another Broken Heart by Julia Tausch is a book about losing love. It is the monologue of a girl named Katy, who, albeit brokenhearted, has the tools to recover: some distance and a wicked sense of humour. She begins by explaining, "I left the love of my life and moved to a brand new city to start again, cold, fresh, drained, rinsed clean-words used to describe canned tuna."
Katy is Bridget Jones with grit. We are at the mercy of her hurly-burly of a narrative. She is obsessive and self-conscious - frenetic, to be sure - but also lovable and fun. Reading this book is like having a coffee with a great friend who is breathlessly blurting out her story. We don't stay and listen because we have to. We want to hear it-not just for the ending, but for all the sweet and sour pieces along the way. Having no chapters, the book has a read-in-one-sitting quality, and seems like a letter from a friend in its frankness, honesty, and humour.
Tausch confronts the problematic nature of being young and female today. Katy is a smart, sassy feminist (or is it post-feminist?) who likes to read Cosmopolitan while remaining self-aware. Her ex-lover called her Baby, Sugar, Gorgeous, Sweetpea, and while she feels this "should be embarrassing," she actually likes these terms of endearment. Left alone and betrayed (a self proclaimed "cuckold"), she rails, " I thought… we girls are supposed to know, goddammit, [what we] want." But she doesn't quite know yet. Part of her wants her estranged lover, but deep down she knows what she wants more: her fighting spirit back. Questions of Katy's strength or weakness are always at stake. Working at the Second Cup, twitchy with breakup anxiety, Katy cries when she hears Celine Dion on the radio and curses her ex, "Fuck you Brian you were my strength when I was weak."
Tausch deftly explores the dilemma of the loving gaze: how much depends on how others see us, how a look of love acts as an affirmation of goodness or worth. But if this loving gaze disappears (or worse, shifts to another object of desire), what happens then? In moments of despair even cool girls like Katy may wonder, why was I not good enough to be loved?
Luckily, Katy is smart enough to know that she is worth more than a fledgling relationship. This is just her rough patch, her wallowing period of grace. And this isn't just another book about heartbreak, it is poetic prose, full of hilarity and self-awareness. Tausch knows all the clichés and embraces them as she pleases. Katy says, "I feel like my life has become a crappy knock-off Atwood novel." Not at all. In fact, at the161 page mark I hadn't heard enough. This is a girl I would love to have an espresso with-or several.
Poppy Wilkinson is managing editor of Maisonneuve magazine.