by Emily White

HarperCollins, 2010. ISBN 978-0-061-76509-4.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 03/30/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships

Emily White, an expert on loneliness, shows us the dimensions of this malady and the obstacles to treatment caused by ignorance and disinterest. Having lived a life of loneliness off and on since early childhood, she decided to research this condition after discovering herself retreating more and more from human connections. With the thoroughness of her lawyer background, she did extensive research, interviewed the expert witnesses, and wrote the book, Lonely.

White reveals extraordinary writing skills in addition to her research, making this non-fiction account seem like a thriller in the way it moves from one topic to the next. She leads the reader to want to know the answer as to why this condition remains untreated and perhaps untreatable. "While some public health plans have identified loneliness as a specific target, it's still the case that loneliness is most often seen as an individual problem, and—worse—as an individual problem that's somehow nonproblematic. Epidemiologists know that the lonely face significant health risks, but the lonely themselves are likely to hear that their state is a mood, something unconnected to anything significant."

White weaves her own experiences throughout her research and leaves no stone unturned, no question unanswered. The satisfying ending leaves the public and medical professionals with the key to helping others through health care, group therapy, bibliotherapy, and understanding. White writes:

We need to put loneliness front and center. We need to start naming it. Here are some sample headlines that could run, ideally, as part of a public education campaign about the state: 'Loneliness Triggers High Blood Pressure,' 'Loneliness Causes Dementia,' 'Loneliness Undermines the Immune System,' Naming loneliness focuses the lens. It gives lonely people a sense of what they're up against, and—if zeroed in on time and time again—it might help shift the static notion that the state is trivial and its effects imaginary.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Emily White is a former lawyer who now works as a writer and policy adviser. She lives in St. John's Newfoundland. Visit her website.

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