Book Review: Lonely – Emily White

Title: Lonely: A Memoir
Author: Emily White
ISBN: 9780061765094
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

In this memoir, Emily White delves into a somewhat taboo subject that is rarely discussed – that of chronic loneliness.  She recounts her own loneliness while also studying it in others.  White also looks at scientific studies, trying to understand loneliness, why the phenomenon is increasing, and why it’s not openly discussed.

Review:

I found the subject of Emily White’s memoir, Lonely, to be very intriguing.  The phenomenon of true loneliness, of being surrounded by people yet not being able to connect with any of them, of feeling utterly alone, is one that deserves serious study and careful consideration.  White shouldn’t be considered brave for talking about it, yet she is because no one does really discuss it.  She relates some of the reactions of people when she tells them she is working on a book about loneliness, and it’s really frustrating. 

I found the comparison of loneliness and depression to be very interesting.  Specifically, chronic loneliness isn’t really recognized as a medical condition (and to be honest, I’m not sure it should be, as I don’t think it can be treated through drugs), so it’s often confused with depression when being diagnosed.  However, loneliness and depression are two very different things – while depressed people are often lonely, lonely people are, for the most part, decidedly not depressed.  White really highlighted the difference between these two conditions, and how it’s hurt the recognition of loneliness because psychiatrists treat it as depression.

White also discusses how loneliness is often perceived to be the fault of the lonely person, much as depression was 20 years ago.  People are uncomfortable talking about loneliness because the public at large thinks that, if someone is lonely, it’s their own fault.  They should just try harder.  In reality, no matter how hard lonely people try, sometimes they just cannot connect with others, and even when they do, they still feel lonely.  As I mentioned before, while I don’t think drugs are the answer for this, a recognition of the problem and support groups where people can share their experiences of loneliness might help alleviate some of the issues.

However, in Lonely, White also discusses how each and every behavior, even if it’s normal, is becoming classified as a condition, and I think that’s what makes me hesitate about loneliness.  It’s normal to feel lonely on occasion, though chronic loneliness is a different story.  I just don’t think that every problem is a disease and every issue should be treated through medical means.  I think that takes away some of the responsibility from ourselves, takes the control of our lives out of our hands.  I’m not saying that chronically lonely people should take responsibility and therefore become less lonely, just that this book walks a fine line and it’s interesting to think about both sides of the issue.

I found Lonely to be an incredibly interesting memoir.  I think it’s a must read for anyone who’s found themselves to be chronically lonely, who can’t shake that feeling of aloneness.  It really helps to know that there are others out there going through the same thing you are.  As a non-lonely person who’s been lonely in the past, I came into this book with a healthy dose of skepticism.  While I’m not convinced medicine is the answer for lonely people, I think recognition and treatment of loneliness through support groups and therapy could be helpful.  It’s an interesting problem and I’m glad I read this eye-opening book.

Comments

  1. This does sound interesting. Some people are surrounded by others and still feel lonely; other people are all alone and don’t. It would be nice if we could figure out why.

  2. This does sound interesting. Some people are surrounded by others and still feel lonely; other people are all alone and don’t. It would be nice if we could figure out why.

  3. This book sounds absolutely fascinating! Very interesting concept. I think that there are people who are simply alone, even when they’re surrounded by people. Though I would never say I have something close to chronic loneliness, I do understand what it is like to be surrounded by people and feel like there is no one to talk to or relate to. I can definitely see how that can get compounded into something more serious over time.

  4. This book sounds absolutely fascinating! Very interesting concept. I think that there are people who are simply alone, even when they’re surrounded by people. Though I would never say I have something close to chronic loneliness, I do understand what it is like to be surrounded by people and feel like there is no one to talk to or relate to. I can definitely see how that can get compounded into something more serious over time.

  5. Very interesting topic for a book. It reminds me a little of the book Acedia and Me, which speaks about the difference between depression and acedia, which is a vague and persistent sadness and loneliness. I do agree with you that loneliness should probably not be called a disease, but it’s interesting to see something written from the perspective of a chronically lonely person. Great review!

  6. Very interesting topic for a book. It reminds me a little of the book Acedia and Me, which speaks about the difference between depression and acedia, which is a vague and persistent sadness and loneliness. I do agree with you that loneliness should probably not be called a disease, but it’s interesting to see something written from the perspective of a chronically lonely person. Great review!

  7. Thanks for the giveaway. This really sounds like a fascinating memoir.

  8. Thanks for the giveaway. This really sounds like a fascinating memoir.

  9. Oops, I meant to say thanks for the REVIEW.

    monagarg@yahoo.com

  10. Oops, I meant to say thanks for the REVIEW.

    monagarg@yahoo.com

  11. Sounds absolutely fascinating. I have periods of depression and periods of loneliness and I have not necessarily saw them as different.

    I think it is important to make these distinctions between feelings about books like Acedia and Me and this memoir can help us do that. Only by making such delineations can we be effective in helping people through this.

  12. Sounds absolutely fascinating. I have periods of depression and periods of loneliness and I have not necessarily saw them as different.

    I think it is important to make these distinctions between feelings about books like Acedia and Me and this memoir can help us do that. Only by making such delineations can we be effective in helping people through this.

  13. What a fantastic, if a bit sad, concept. I agree with you that some things are best left without a label. It seems we are very quick to give every problem a “diagnosis” and “treatment” these days.

  14. What a fantastic, if a bit sad, concept. I agree with you that some things are best left without a label. It seems we are very quick to give every problem a “diagnosis” and “treatment” these days.

  15. The first thing that I thought of when I started reading your review was “isn’t that really just a manifestation of depression?” I had no idea. I also think, though, that I would be skeptical too. And of course, the drug companies and doctors are very quick to throw medication at it.

  16. The first thing that I thought of when I started reading your review was “isn’t that really just a manifestation of depression?” I had no idea. I also think, though, that I would be skeptical too. And of course, the drug companies and doctors are very quick to throw medication at it.

  17. The difference between loneliness and depression – is very intriguing…and this topic is very real these days too!

  18. The difference between loneliness and depression – is very intriguing…and this topic is very real these days too!

  19. Gosh. An interesting topic. As a writer I am not sure how I’d put my arms around it, so I’m fascinated to see that such a memoir exists.

  20. Gosh. An interesting topic. As a writer I am not sure how I’d put my arms around it, so I’m fascinated to see that such a memoir exists.

  21. This is very interesting. I’m hardly ever lonely – in fact I am quite happy to be alone much of the time although I know they’re different – so it would be really interesting for me to gain some perspective of the other side. I would also hesitate to call it a medical condition, but I agree that support groups could be an option.

  22. This is very interesting. I’m hardly ever lonely – in fact I am quite happy to be alone much of the time although I know they’re different – so it would be really interesting for me to gain some perspective of the other side. I would also hesitate to call it a medical condition, but I agree that support groups could be an option.

  23. Thank you for this review. I am very encouraged that somebody finally is addressing this issue. I am one of those people that the book is about and trust me when I say that it is very real and a very difficult “condition” to live with. I get faced with that same attitude of “just try harder” – but I have come to the conclusion that something is wrong when you have to work THAT hard just to reach the minimum. It doesn’t help that people snub you when you aren’t immediately engaging in social situations. And the difference between loneliness and depression, at least to me, is that the loneliness CREATES the depression. When I finally connect with someone I am actually happy and not depressed.

  24. Thank you for this review. I am very encouraged that somebody finally is addressing this issue. I am one of those people that the book is about and trust me when I say that it is very real and a very difficult “condition” to live with. I get faced with that same attitude of “just try harder” – but I have come to the conclusion that something is wrong when you have to work THAT hard just to reach the minimum. It doesn’t help that people snub you when you aren’t immediately engaging in social situations. And the difference between loneliness and depression, at least to me, is that the loneliness CREATES the depression. When I finally connect with someone I am actually happy and not depressed.

  25. Interesting concept. Thanks for the review!

  26. Interesting concept. Thanks for the review!

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