As an ambitious columnist at The Independent, Christina Patterson’s passion for her job sustained her through her turbulent pursuit of love and family – until her editor unexpectedly made her redundant, that is. While it would have been all too easy for Patterson to wallow in self-pity, she instead turns her rejection into a positive pivotal moment: She embarks on a journey to discover the many facets of loss, grief, and resilience, resulting in her book, The Art of Not Falling Apart (2018). In the book’s three parts, – Falling, Gathering and Fighting Back – Patterson intertwines her own story with the hardships of friends, family members, and acquaintances, ranging from the death of loved ones to coping with debilitating mental illnesses and physical ailments.

In describing a variety of personal crises, Patterson’s prose makes for a read that toggles between painfully real, informative, and even humorous passages. Most importantly, however, she delivers a hopeful message: while all of the people featured in her book, including Patterson herself, could have fallen apart as a result of their adversities, they manage to move forward and come out the other side. For me, this reassuring outcome is best summed up in Patterson’s thoughts on persevering: “We all get ill and die. But I’ve learnt that the best way to keep healthy is to be happy, and active, and curious, and to be grateful for the incredible machine we all live in, on the face of this incredible earth” (p. 297). This life philosophy is certainly easier said than done, but it’s worth aspiring to – especially when reading about Patterson and her interviewee’s inspiring ability to embrace this mindset.

Although the variety and volume of personal accounts makes for a somewhat disjointed read, they are simultaneously uplifting and serve as an important reminder that no one is alone in their hardships. Several critics have also pointed out that Patterson’s research on the benefits of marriage are not entirely accurate, but I think that these minor flaws can be easily excused in light of the book’s poignant and relatable portrayal of life’s many challenges. I personally found a lot of comfort in Patterson’s work, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a refreshingly hopeful perspective on loss and resilience.

by Helena Ord

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