Claire has returned from London to the dust and familiarity of her childhood home, only to realise something is wrong with her partner Maggie.
Patrick is a lonely uni student, until he meets Caitlin – but does she feel as connected as he does?
Ana is happily married with three children. Then, one night, she falls in love with someone else.
Based on three true stories, Heartsick is a compelling narrative nonfiction account of the many lows and occasional surprising highs of heartbreak. Bruising, beautiful, achingly specific but wholeheartedly universal, it reminds us that emotional pain can make us as it breaks us, and that storytelling has the ultimate healing power.
Jessie Stephens’ Heartsick documents three lives affected by heartbreak. Whilst names have been changed and small details have been altered, Ana, Patrick and Claire resemble three very real individuals who have — at some point — felt truly alone in experiences with love. Readers will devour this.
Predominantly non-fiction with a slight amount of fictional embellishment cast through inner dialogue, Heartsick will appeal to all readers who’ve experienced romantic trauma — heartbreak, whether you caused it or were the recipient, isn’t a feeling we easily forget.
“I wrote the book for people who know that a self-help book won’t fix it. No book will. And for the people who know there’s no such thing as distraction because there’s someone living behind your eyes and they shape everything you see. I wrote this book because I know what it is to feel fundamentally unlovable. Like there’s something wrong with you. It is their story — Ana’s and Patrick’s and Claire’s. But it is also my story and our story.”
Written in third person and rotating between the three stories in linear fashion like a roll call, Heartsick reads like fiction and will completely absorb readers. The book captures that visceral experience of a relationship ending. Jessie offers great insight into how these three people felt at these pivotal moments in their relationship. The inner dialogue offers characterisation, as well as emotional observations that readers will be able to relate to. Each of the three main characters regularly reflect on their life, allowing for quiet moments in the book.
Despite being non-fiction, Jessie builds tension throughout each chapter. You experience love building between two people, and then you witness the ups and downs of their relationship, and then ultimately the final downfall. I felt great empathy for Patrick, whose love for his girlfriend is so strong, and it’s clear it may not be reciprocated. And Ana being married to the wrong man but being unable to follow what she truly wants is something I’ll be thinking about for days to come.
“We can’t understand how they tucked everything they once felt for us away into a back pocket and forgot about it. As though it never existed. We keep fantasising that they’ll find their old pair of jeans and pull them on, only to rediscover that feeling they’d misplaced.”
Jessie captures love at different ages. We meet Patrick at university and we stay with him until his early 20s. Claire is also in her twenties, but a little older. And Ana is in her 40s, with a husband and children, and a home she resents being inside. The end of the book offers great reflection from each of these characters, as their stories don’t just end with the relationships breaking down. We witness their turmoil afterwards, and them desperately trying to piece their life back together after it shattered.
Heartsick will either make you feel grateful for the love you have now, or will make you feel like you’re not alone as you currently go through love that’s been lost. Heartache and heartbreak is something all humans should be able to relate to, and understand.
“Heartbreak does not seem to be a brand of grief we respect. And so we are left in the middle of the ocean, floating in a dinghy with no anchor, while the world waits for us to be okay again.”
Raw, relatable and honest, and dripping with emotional insight, Heartsick is highly recommended reading. Anyone who has experienced a broken heart is about to remember it.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Pan Macmillan Publishers