I don’t often cry at books. Sure, there was Tuck Everlasting. And Bridge to Terabithia, of course. And then who could forget The Art of Racing in the Rain or The Fault in Our Stars or A Thousand Splendid Suns or A Man Called Ove or…
Hmm. Maybe I cry at books a little more than I thought I did.
Still, proportionally speaking, I don’t tear up at many books. Rarer still are nonfiction books that make me emotional. But Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb did me in.
Gottlieb, a therapist, writes about her professional life as well as her experience being a patient of another therapist after a particularly bad breakup. The bits about her breakup are usually deftly paralleled with sessions with one of a few of her (thoroughly-pseudonymed) clients. As a therapist, she is trained to recognize all the ways her clients are too stubborn to acknowledge or willfully ignorant of their hangups/barriers/destructive patterns, but as a patient, she finds herself falling into all the old familiar traps she’s accustomed to pulling people out of. Therapists having therapists isn’t rare, she notes, but giving this kind of a glimpse inside both chairs in a therapist’s office is. And sometimes it gets emotional.
I should clarify. The whole book isn’t a tear-jerker. Most of it is pretty funny. I even laughed out loud a few times—none of this “lol” stuff while you barely smile; a literal laugh out loud a few times. It scared the dog (but a lot of things scare the dog). Other parts are cringey and others still are thought provoking. And then there’s just that one thread that destroyed me. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is at its finest when Gottlieb is making connections between her struggles and those of her clients, when she’s reflecting on the ways that helping others is helping her make sense of her own life. The tear-jerking part in question (which I debated about summarizing but I won’t because should you read this book I do not want to spoil it even a little because it is as beautiful as it is sad) is particularly strong in that respect.
Less effective are the portions in which Gottlieb is detailing her twisted, rocky road to therapy. I say this not because it’s boring, because it isn’t—part of her unconventional journey into the profession involved working on the early seasons of ER (hello, young George Clooney)—nor because it’s inappropriately placed in the book; it is a memoir, after all. I say this because I am a selfish person who wanted more stories about the television executive who hated everyone. I wanted to hear more about the flighty woman who kept sabotaging her romantic relationships, including with fellow patients she sees in the waiting room. Gottlieb’s professional journey were detours away from the voyeurism, and I wanted my voyeurism. My petty desires aside, Gottlieb is a gifted enough writer that all the portions feel emotionally distinct and yet unmistakably like they belong within the same work. And all of the sections—Gottlieb’s work history, her clients, her own therapy—all provide the context necessary to understand the connections she makes within herself in each.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is light and lovely until it’s heavy and lovely, but it’s always lovely. I came away thinking more deeply about my own life and relationships. And, yes, with some tears.