Disclaimer (I received an electronic copy of this book for review from the author).
When writing about subjects such as loss and grief, even those works which are “academic” can never be completely removed from the hard core emotional turmoil surrounding those subjects. It is often a challenge to find the write balance between being informative, self revealing and relevant to others. Books that are too technical tend to be good resources for the professional (and often are unsatisfying to the same professional when he/she is going through grief), while books that become too biographical, which often times are filled with platitudes, lose their power of influence. It is with regard to this last category that I address this review. I recently received a review copy of Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: Embracing Life After Loss by Allen Klein.
At the outset, I have two main critiques of this work. The first is in relationship to the title, Learning to Laugh… I was expecting a book with more humor, in the sense of how to find humor in the dark times. Instead, the author’s presentation seemed to more coincide with a title like, Learning to Smile, as his messages relate more to reframing grief and loss instead of a full blown, this is how we can laugh when looking back on our losses. While he rectifies this problem towards the end of the book, I am still left with something missing, namely how to accomplish laughter during loss. Much of the book tends towards generalizations without going into how-to steps to help achieve the goals a reader might have in embracing this book.
The second issue is related to the structure of the book. As I was reading through the book, it occurred to me that the book would have been better served as a daily read, in which he could write the same short pieces but divide them either for 180 days or 365 days. Instead, since he presents it in book form with short chapters, many reading it might not take the time to think about what they have read before moving on to the next little vignette the author shares.
I commend the author’s effort at sharing his personal experiences in a non-personal manner. There is definitely something positive to reading a book that lays out the subject of loss in a simple and easy to digest manner. His efforts are to be commended in walking people through grief with an end goal of learning to laugh when confronting loss, yet, perhaps more could be done to enhance the subject of finding the laughter when things are difficult.