The very first day this book arrived at my library, the title and cover drew me in immediately. “It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too)” just sounds like such a me title. I had no idea what it was about (I didn’t even know it was a memoir at first. It was just vaguely displayed on the ‘New Releases’ shelf.) I showed the book to my boss, knowing we have similar taste in things and she would appreciate the title, too. She said to me, “Yeah, it’s supposed to be really sad and about her husband dying.” I hadn’t been in the mood to cry, and learning that it was a memoir written by some random person, I kind of expected it to not be very interesting. Still, every time I saw it on the shelf, I was drawn toward it. Finally, one day as I was shelving some other new releases, I went ahead and picked it up, anyway. I read the back cover:
And then I read the front flap:
I was already in the middle of reading a different book (which was taking me ages to read for no real reason), so I felt kind of guilty picking up a new one to read, but I had been eyeing this one for far too long. I gave in and finally checked it out. I finished reading it within two days.
“I’m not an expert on grief or parenting or even writing (maybe I Googled “How to Write a Book,” maybe not; who’s to say?)”
It’s written in this way that feels very comfortable and familiar. Nora addresses heartbreaking subjects (within two months, her father, husband, and unborn child died), but when she’s talking about the worst things in life, she’ll bring you to the verge of tears and then word something in a way that’ll make you laugh. I haven’t been through what she’s been through, but I did watch my uncle go through cancer treatments and die when he was twenty-five, so some of it did hit close to home.
“We are young and in love, and my boyfriend is going to die.”
I must admit, what made me cry the most was just the thought of my future husband dying someday. She talks about how once Aaron dies, his memories die with him. There will be things she never gets to know about him because he hadn’t thought to tell her. Small, insignificant things, but when it’s the love of your life, you want to know it all. You want to be able to put a USB in his brain and pull out all of his memories so you can go through them after he’s gone.
It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) is the best book I’ve read since Hyperbole and a Half. It’s so heartfelt and so sassy. One page will make you giggle loudly, but then you won’t be able to see the next page because your eyes are so full of tears. It’s a memoir made up of essays, so it’s not all chronological, and some things do get repeated. Nora also writes about moving to New York with a boyfriend and having to live with him until the lease was up on their apartment (months after they wanted to break up), befriending her husband’s ex-girlfriend (which is basically half of the plot of this season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), being the tallest girl around, and lots of other less depressing topics, so it’s not a complete sob-fest.
Nora is still in love with her late husband, and struggles to keep Aaron’s memory alive for their son, Ralphie, but has found love again with a man she refers only to as Mr. Hart, his children, and their new baby, Stormtrooper Lucky Charm.
You can listen to her podcast, Terrible Thanks for Asking, where Nora talks to people around the country about terrible things they’ve been through (it covers failure, death, miscarriages, sexual assault, etc) here, or on iTunes or Stitcher.