By Kathy Megyeri
OK, I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic who devours each of the Modern Love essays published weekly in the New York Times, but if you too have ever been in love, are searching for love, or who’s lost a love, then this book is for you. Author and long-time editor of the Modern Love columns, Daniel Jones collected 42 of the most popular, provocative and unforgettable essays from the column’s past 15 years, and the collection is proving to be one of this year’s most popular Valentine gift for book lovers and readers.
Some essays are unconventional stories, some hit close to home, some reveal the ways technology has changed dating, some explore the timeless struggles in our search for love, but all are honest and tell the larger story of how relationships begin, often fail, or if we’re lucky, endure. It’s the perfect book for someone who longs for romance or is in love, someone who’s stalked an ex on social media, or someone who is just plain interested in the endlessly complicated workings of the human heart.
The most powerful tales involve those loves that matured over time like midlife marriages, parenthood, and the loss of loved ones. In each case, as Jones points out, the vulnerability of love takes many forms as we expose ourselves to the possibility of loss as well as to the possibility of connection. He explains love as a combination of three emotions or impulses: desire, vulnerability and bravery, and these collected stories demonstrate each. They will shock you, instruct you, and provide you with both laughter and tears. I wept when reading Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in which she writes a dating profile for her husband because she’s dying from ovarian cancer and doesn’t want him to be alone after she’s gone. But readers will hardily laugh as well.
But it’s the story by Elizabeth Fitzsimons who most showed me the real strength of love. She adopted a baby girl in China, and then discovered the scar on the girl’s spine from a botched spiral surgery that caused nerve damage, paralysis, and loss of all bladder and bowel control. The adoption agency said Elizabeth could keep the damaged baby or trade her in for a healthier one. Elizabeth kept her but back home in the states, there were seizures and a scary diagnosis. Years later, there’s a happy ending, but at the time, Elizabeth, who wrote this story on one Mother’s Day, said to the agency, “We don’t want another baby; we want our baby, the one sleeping right over there. She’s our daughter.” What bravery, what resolve, what love!
So love makes many presentations, wears many guises, and elicits many reactions. Each of the book’s essays is a gem with humor, warmth, insight, poignancy, and relatability. I want Editor Jones to compile another volume, but I wonder if I have to wait until next year to give volume two as a Valentine gift. I’d love another volume right now.