Lonely: A Memoir

by Debbie Stoller

Now in her early 40s, Emily White has suffered from crippling loneliness on and off since childhood, and it dominated her life for four years, beginning in 2002.

She began research for this debut memoir as a way to further understand her condition, which, she discovered, is surprisingly common, especially among city dwellers. Citing a vast array of sources, including studies that conclude 10 percent of North Americans are chronically lonesome, White started a blog, LongTermLoneliness.com, which enabled her to connect with-and interview-strangers grappling with similar issues. A Canadian lawyer, White is more motivated by the desire to shed the shame factor surrounding such a widespread condition than to tell her own story, and these two arcs never quite come together. Her vast data about loneliness merits attention (a particular highlight includes the multifaceted connection between loneliness and shopping), but White, for all her meticulous sifting through information, lacks humor. Loneliness may be a more serious affliction than is generally perceived, but White’s cerebral approach doesn’t invite the reader in. She’s honest about her life and the fact that she kept her homosexuality a secret until a couple of years ago, but she never comes across as fully present or self-aware-though her book does have a happy ending. When she falls in love, it comes as a relief, in part because one no longer has to see variations of the word “lonely” in almost every paragraph. According to all of White’s research, it’s too simplistic to state that romance is the cure for isolation, but here, as ever, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

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