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Joy Enough: A Memoir

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Sifting gingerly through memories of her late mother, brilliant newcomer Sarah McColl has penned an indelible tribute to the joy and pain of loving well. Even as her own marriage splinters, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In a Sifting gingerly through memories of her late mother, brilliant newcomer Sarah McColl has penned an indelible tribute to the joy and pain of loving well. Even as her own marriage splinters, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In a series of vibrant vignettes—lipstick applied, novels read, imperfect cakes baked—McColl reveals a woman of endless charm and infinite love for her unruly brood of children. Mining the dual losses of both her young marriage and her beloved mother, McColl confronts her identity as a woman, walking lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her and clinging fast to the joy she left behind. With candor reminiscent of classics like C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Joy Enough offers a story that blooms with life.


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Sifting gingerly through memories of her late mother, brilliant newcomer Sarah McColl has penned an indelible tribute to the joy and pain of loving well. Even as her own marriage splinters, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In a Sifting gingerly through memories of her late mother, brilliant newcomer Sarah McColl has penned an indelible tribute to the joy and pain of loving well. Even as her own marriage splinters, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In a series of vibrant vignettes—lipstick applied, novels read, imperfect cakes baked—McColl reveals a woman of endless charm and infinite love for her unruly brood of children. Mining the dual losses of both her young marriage and her beloved mother, McColl confronts her identity as a woman, walking lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her and clinging fast to the joy she left behind. With candor reminiscent of classics like C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Joy Enough offers a story that blooms with life.

30 review for Joy Enough: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I'm all in for grief memoirs, still, and Joy Enough by Sarah McColl is an honest capture of layered grief - loss of marriage, loss of mother. It's not only bad parts and her past is largely positive, so it isn't all sad, very true to reality. I would give this to a friend struggling with a parent's illness or terminal diagnosis. It's hopeful in its straightforward look at everyday death (that never feels "normal" when you go through it.)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    Like a cool washcloth on a hot forehead. This was the perfect balm for my own grieving soul.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kris V Bernard

    “I loved my mother and she died. Is that a story?” This book caught me off guard and pulled me in with that first line. What follows is the story of a mother’s impact on her family, and especially on her daughter, Sarah. The language is rife with beautiful metaphors, and the structure is delicately woven around memories of her mother. This is a tender artful expression of pain and longing, beautifully written. Finishing it, I’m reminded of the great value of “I loved my mother and she died. Is that a story?” This book caught me off guard and pulled me in with that first line. What follows is the story of a mother’s impact on her family, and especially on her daughter, Sarah. The language is rife with beautiful metaphors, and the structure is delicately woven around memories of her mother. This is a tender artful expression of pain and longing, beautifully written. Finishing it, I’m reminded of the great value of memories, and the stories they carry.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kayo

    I almost gave up on this book , but so glad I didn't. Very touching, and it just spoke to me. Lovely. So worth it. Thanks you Goodreads for letting me win this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessie Adamczyk

    Memoirs are tricky beasts. Save the odd, truly sensational story, I believe these monsters only can be conquered by those who are either incredibly talented or obscenely narcissistic. Often times, the writer must be both. McColl, however, does not appear to be either. Her writing style shows promise. The work includes flashes where she seems earnest and desperate to claim her craft. These lines are layered between tired cliche's, however, and worn out platitudes about white, childless women who Memoirs are tricky beasts. Save the odd, truly sensational story, I believe these monsters only can be conquered by those who are either incredibly talented or obscenely narcissistic. Often times, the writer must be both. McColl, however, does not appear to be either. Her writing style shows promise. The work includes flashes where she seems earnest and desperate to claim her craft. These lines are layered between tired cliche's, however, and worn out platitudes about white, childless women who encounter a divorce. McColl doesn't write herself as a very interesting person, which proves my theory that either she is untalented or is, in fact, quite a vapid individual. Her mother, however, is painted as much more tangible; she is a real person, full of flaws yet spooling bits of motherhood advice. It's ironic to me that the mother, whose death is at the center of the story, is more alive that McColl herself. It's a quick read easily accomplished in the breadth of an afternoon. The memoir falls neatly into a parental death/find yourself niche. For McColl, the depth of finding herself includes buying a country home and learning to change a lightbulb herself. This type of cursory examination may satisfy some, but it left me asking, "this is it?"

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn Hillis

    Joy Enough is a beautifully written memoir about love, and the life and loss of her mother. I received an advanced copy from NY BookCon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessie (thatchickwithabook)

    Joy Enough is a beautiful expression of a mother’s life through a daughter’s eyes, and heart stopping loss. Sarah writes about her mother’s illness and untimely passing with eloquence and pain. It’s a view of grief that makes you feel like you’re living it firsthand; a true testament to her writing. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Katie Devine

    "I loved my mother, and she died. Is that a story?" I was captivated from the first sentence of this lyrical, fragmented memoir, and my attention was held through tears and laughter and heartbreak and joy until even after the final sentence. This is a book that begs to be re-read and savored again, and I will be heeding that call.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    I watched McColl's edition of "stacked" on belletrist's Instagram and she talked about all of her own books with such affection; I decided I must read the work of a woman who takes that much pleasure in words. Joy Enough is strangely Dionysian. It luxuriates in language. (I was not surprised to learn that the author once earned her living making people's mouths water as a food writer.) McColl imbues every meal eaten, every landscape viewed, and every question answered, with meaning. She gives vo I watched McColl's edition of "stacked" on belletrist's Instagram and she talked about all of her own books with such affection; I decided I must read the work of a woman who takes that much pleasure in words. Joy Enough is strangely Dionysian. It luxuriates in language. (I was not surprised to learn that the author once earned her living making people's mouths water as a food writer.) McColl imbues every meal eaten, every landscape viewed, and every question answered, with meaning. She gives voice to the loneliness of a non-functional marriage with subtlety and nuance. McColl knows the way that each little day is profound and she transmits her message with delicacy and grace. She is wise. I very much recommend this lush, ruminative, memoir of loss and life.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caiti S

    Sarah used to write one of my favorite blogs, Pink of Perfection. This is her debut memoir, and it was incredible. She explored love and loss in relationships--largely with her mother but also her marriage and within herself. Sarah's writing is gorgeous and vibrant. A small but touching and powerful memoir.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    A book on mother loss that is simple and stark while also beautiful. Sarah’s capturing of her disintegrating marriage on the edges of her mother’s decline hit close to home in a very personal and gut-wrenching way. While our stories are a bit different, her observations and candidness confirmed that we are not alone in what we experience through the various levels of grief and loss.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claire Fuller

    Sarah McColl's mother dies, she loved her, she wonders if it is a strong enough story. It certainly is. McColl writes beautifully of love and death in snippets of memory, interspersed with the story of her own failing marriage (I didn't find these elements as strong as those about her relationship with her mother). I'll definitely be looking out for what McColl writes next.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    4.5 stars, rounding up. Aching, lovely, understated. I want to call it a pleasure to read, even if that feels not quite right to say about a memoir of grief. I have missed McColl's writing for many years now, and am so glad to have it with me again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martha Toll

    Here is my review of this book on NPR. https://www.npr.org/2019/01/16/685099...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelley

    This was a story that mirrored both my grief for my mother and my grief for my marriage more than anything I’ve read. What a poetic, lyrical and luscious book. And the experience of recognizing myself and reading my previously unarticulated thoughts and feelings- true gifts. ❤🙏🏼 This was a story that mirrored both my grief for my mother and my grief for my marriage more than anything I’ve read. What a poetic, lyrical and luscious book. And the experience of recognizing myself and reading my previously unarticulated thoughts and feelings- true gifts. ❤️🙏🏼

  16. 4 out of 5

    Delia Rainey

    i picked this book up when i renewing my library card. i saw a paul lisicky quote on the back, saw the slim bind, and that it was a grief memoir in fragments that weave through time. hell ya. while reading, i could tell this is sarah’s first book, and a book written during a nonfiction mfa program (with jo ann beard first in the thank yous!) ~ it’s jam-packed and flourishy with big life moments and almost-cliche life realizations. mccoll’s descriptions and memories of her mother create a lovingl i picked this book up when i renewing my library card. i saw a paul lisicky quote on the back, saw the slim bind, and that it was a grief memoir in fragments that weave through time. hell ya. while reading, i could tell this is sarah’s first book, and a book written during a nonfiction mfa program (with jo ann beard first in the thank yous!) ~ it’s jam-packed and flourishy with big life moments and almost-cliche life realizations. mccoll’s descriptions and memories of her mother create a lovingly crafted tribute, a vessel full of this lively woman to live forever and be treasured by strangers like me who just randomly checked this book out. i felt a little lost during the husband-breakup sections, which i rushed through to get back to parts on her mother. i winced when sarah delighted in police officers flirting with her, and randomly mentioning that a past crush is now trans, but maybe i’m just nit-picky. i read like a sponge when she described a childhood of going to the neighborhood pool with her mom, and driving home in a wet swim suit, pulling a clean t-shirt over her head as a nightgown back at home. the writing in here is gorgeous and careful, and i enjoyed the lyrical, collage-like form which moves at a fast pace. however, sarah spends the book telling us that people say she’s just like her mother, yet this book seemed to prove otherwise for me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leah Dieterich

    Somehow McColl makes her mother's illness and death and falling out of love with her husband feel both hopeful, joyful, and funny. I laughed. I cried. I came back to life as a writer in reading this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Cobb Sabatini

    I won an Advance Reading Copy of Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl from Goodreads. I'm reading Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl, readers experience defining moments in the author's life that are at once unique to the writer and familiar to the reader. Recognizing the growing pains endured by the author and sharing the emotions, readers can't help but to empathize with McColl and to revisit the precious, life changing, identity forming moments of their own lives. Sweet and I won an Advance Reading Copy of Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl from Goodreads. I'm reading Joy Enough: A Memoir by Sarah McColl, readers experience defining moments in the author's life that are at once unique to the writer and familiar to the reader. Recognizing the growing pains endured by the author and sharing the emotions, readers can't help but to empathize with McColl and to revisit the precious, life changing, identity forming moments of their own lives. Sweet and sad, insightful and uplifting, Sarah McColl's Joy Enough is a quick read with a long impact.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michele Siqueiros

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. TY @latimes for bringing this memoir into my life. Joy Enough by first time author Sarah McColl is the most beautiful first love story - that crazy, beautiful, deep love for your mom. This memoir took me alongside a beautiful journey. From her childhood memories, her moms sage advice (including learning how to make several meals out of one roasted chicken), while also learning above all that she no longer loved her husband and facing the grief of losing her mom to cancer. I appreciated her raw h TY @latimes for bringing this memoir into my life. Joy Enough by first time author Sarah McColl is the most beautiful first love story - that crazy, beautiful, deep love for your mom. This memoir took me alongside a beautiful journey. From her childhood memories, her moms sage advice (including learning how to make several meals out of one roasted chicken), while also learning above all that she no longer loved her husband and facing the grief of losing her mom to cancer. I appreciated her raw honesty and how she weaved her love for her mother with becoming a woman able to face the disintegration of her marriage, her longing for a child, and her dream of becoming a writer. Perhaps the death of the person you love most teaches you to stop wasting time doing things you don’t love - and reminds you who you want to be. My favorite nuggets of wisdom: 1. “Having a mother who loves you is a lucky stroke. Like being born beautiful or rich. In fact it is the biggest advantage of all.” 2. “People will tell you everything you need to know about them in the first 20 minutes ... the key is to pay attention.” 3. It is lonelier to be with someone you no longer love, than to be alone. 4. “Good judgment is based on experience. Experience is based on bad judgement.” 5. Love is madness. Scientifically proven - when we fall in love, our brains are literally insane. 6. In love ... duration does not equal significance. #JoyEnough #SarahMcColl #BookWorm

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    There is something about grief memoirs that can be so therapeutic for those who have experienced loss. Each year I feel a little further away from the undertow on my grief, but it can still call me back whenever it decides to. There is no control. This was a book I was scared to read at first, but over time I just kept coming back to it. I was scared to read it because my beautiful mom is still here and just the thought of losing her on top my other grief makes me go a bit wild. But she lost her There is something about grief memoirs that can be so therapeutic for those who have experienced loss. Each year I feel a little further away from the undertow on my grief, but it can still call me back whenever it decides to. There is no control. This was a book I was scared to read at first, but over time I just kept coming back to it. I was scared to read it because my beautiful mom is still here and just the thought of losing her on top my other grief makes me go a bit wild. But she lost her mother shortly after I lost my father and I see all that in these pages. I see our mutual loss. I think what I most loved about this book is its simplicity - just a normal life. My grief isn't on the cover of magazines, my father's loss wasn't felt far and wide, my grandmothers both died in their home with their husband and daughter; no one else was watching. Sarah's story felt like my story, my mom's story, my aunt's story, like every story of a life that didn't shine for all just for those they loved. That's where it was felt and will continue to be felt. It's not a big story, it is enough of one though.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hazelj jones

    I really enjoyed this book ! Sarah McColl writes with such honest feelings of the journey of her mother's passing and the layers of feelings one has when they know someone they love will soon be gone .A long goodby! A excellent writing and sharing as the daughter goes through the process .I could only admire the author for writing this great book and walking through the day to day activities and coming to understand what a wonderful lady the mother was . Writing down such day to day feeling I really enjoyed this book ! Sarah McColl writes with such honest feelings of the journey of her mother's passing and the layers of feelings one has when they know someone they love will soon be gone .A long goodby! A excellent writing and sharing as the daughter goes through the process .I could only admire the author for writing this great book and walking through the day to day activities and coming to understand what a wonderful lady the mother was . Writing down such day to day feelings and activities made me stop and take the time to remember meny memories of my own Mother ! Thank you Sarah McColl for writing this book! I received this book on Good Reads for a honest review .Published by LiveRight Publishing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    3.5 I want to rate this higher. I do. It’s personal and real and relatable. McColl is vulnerable and raw and has talent. The trouble for me came in the structure, the short passages that seemed forced together to impart certain meaning. And the weight of the book felt too front/beginning heavy, not balanced in emotion or impact throughout. I think McColl could have trusted her readers more. That she could have told the narrative in a chronological and linear way without losing any artistry and t 3.5 I want to rate this higher. I do. It’s personal and real and relatable. McColl is vulnerable and raw and has talent. The trouble for me came in the structure, the short passages that seemed forced together to impart certain meaning. And the weight of the book felt too front/beginning heavy, not balanced in emotion or impact throughout. I think McColl could have trusted her readers more. That she could have told the narrative in a chronological and linear way without losing any artistry and that may instead have resulted in more compassion from at least this reader. I am not disinterested in her story, both the universality of loss in different forms and the processing of that loss, but this book didn’t make me truly feel anything as I read it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kimball

    What does it mean when someone says, “You are just like your mother”? Sarah McColl tries to find out after she can no longer ask. In a series of memories, Sarah tries to understand how she is like her mom as she comes to terms with both the loss of her mom and the demise of her marriage. The memories are of first memories, growing up in Dallas, an across country move to Massachusetts, her love story and the story of her mom’s fight with cancer. It is an artfully written account that is over way What does it mean when someone says, “You are just like your mother”? Sarah McColl tries to find out after she can no longer ask. In a series of memories, Sarah tries to understand how she is like her mom as she comes to terms with both the loss of her mom and the demise of her marriage. The memories are of first memories, growing up in Dallas, an across country move to Massachusetts, her love story and the story of her mom’s fight with cancer. It is an artfully written account that is over way too soon. In the end, Sarah answers her question and makes the drastic changes she needs to in order to live the life she wants.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    I seem to be on a memoir kick this month! I would absolutely give this a 3+ if I could, for the especially enchanting way McColl shares her love for her mother, who is, through the eyes of her daughter anyway, a fabulous woman. Very 3-dimensional, very rich and full of flavor. She makes wonderfully wise proclamations that are sometimes unexpectedly risque and her reflected love for her daughter is truly touching. The rest of McColl's story—her flat, sad breakup with her husband, her writing styl I seem to be on a memoir kick this month! I would absolutely give this a 3+ if I could, for the especially enchanting way McColl shares her love for her mother, who is, through the eyes of her daughter anyway, a fabulous woman. Very 3-dimensional, very rich and full of flavor. She makes wonderfully wise proclamations that are sometimes unexpectedly risque and her reflected love for her daughter is truly touching. The rest of McColl's story—her flat, sad breakup with her husband, her writing style, the lack of character definition for herself, the somewhat haphazard structure, was less compelling for me though it surely may have been for someone else.

  25. 5 out of 5

    kglibrarian

    In this beautifully written memoir McColl reflects on her relationship with her mother from early childhood until her recent death. As her own marriage was falling apart, she spent time with her mother after a cancer diagnosis, and attempted to make sense of her past and the people who helped shape her identity. As she writes about individual moments, philosophical musings, fears and joy, her soul is bared and it is impossible not to feel a deep connection to her experiences. By the end, I was s In this beautifully written memoir McColl reflects on her relationship with her mother from early childhood until her recent death. As her own marriage was falling apart, she spent time with her mother after a cancer diagnosis, and attempted to make sense of her past and the people who helped shape her identity. As she writes about individual moments, philosophical musings, fears and joy, her soul is bared and it is impossible not to feel a deep connection to her experiences. By the end, I was sobbing from her lucid, emotional descriptions and analyses of life, love, and all the messiness that goes along with them.

  26. 4 out of 5

    E Emens

    This memoir is exquisite. Familiar, precise, and painful; gorgeous, luxurious, and, in rare and surprising moments, laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who has loved, and then stopped, can relate. Anyone who has loved someone that much, and walked through their dying, can relate. As can anyone who has been a daughter who loved her mother. Or who has been accused of making too much meaning out of small matters. McColl makes words do unusual things yet aims always to communicate more than to dazzle. Quit This memoir is exquisite. Familiar, precise, and painful; gorgeous, luxurious, and, in rare and surprising moments, laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who has loved, and then stopped, can relate. Anyone who has loved someone that much, and walked through their dying, can relate. As can anyone who has been a daughter who loved her mother. Or who has been accused of making too much meaning out of small matters. McColl makes words do unusual things yet aims always to communicate more than to dazzle. Quite simply, an astonishing book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kim Bakos

    This book was a sweet remembrance of the author's mother. I liked her writing style, but found the shifts in time to be a little hard to follow. I found the falling apart of her marriage to be sad since it seems that in some ways they were still in love. Marriage is something to fight for, not to be discarded once you are "over it". I read the book in one day, so I enjoyed it, but won't say it is a "must read" for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Smalter Hall

    Although I love a dishy memoir that spills every last juicy secret, there’s also something to be said for restraint. In the tradition of M.F.K. Fischer and Joan Didion, Joy Enough uses food as a fulcrum to explore the heart’s longing. As a twenty-something in New York whose young marriage was disintegrating, Sarah left her husband to go to her dying mother’s side and sought to cure her with lovingly cooked meals. This is a gorgeous, glittering jewel disguised as memoir.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Romolini

    Sarah McColl is a gorgeous, generous writer; with the kind of gentleness, warmth, and depth of skill that makes even the most crushingly sad moments in her work feel hopeful and alive. This book is about grief — but also about love and truth and understanding and discovering who we are. I finished "Joy Enough" last month and have not stopped thinking about it since. I honestly don't know if I ever will.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Aydt

    Sarah McColl's book is a gorgeous, unflinching look at love and loss. Her prose is incredibly poetic, and her characters are drawn out in a way that will stay with me for ages. I feel like I've sat with her and her mother at a kitchen table over long, wise conversations and lovingly prepared meals. I felt the deep pain of her mother's departure and cheered her on as she moved through her bad marriage into freedom. I love this book and will revisit it as an old friend.

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