This Is Not The Story You Think It Is...A Season of Unlikely Happiness
by Laura Munson

Amy Einhorn Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-399-15665-6.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 06/02/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir

I laughed out loud. I cried. The intriguing title and friendly narrative pulled me into the author's unfolding drama before I realized I was 30 pages into the book. I think any woman who grapples with issues related to self-identity, love and family would find some answers here.

Laura Munson's memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is...A Season of Unlikely Happiness, is a perfect choice for summer reading. She wrote this book one summer from her Montana home while raising two children and struggling to keep her marriage alive. She declared herself a writer at an early age and though wanting to be published, she was still waiting to get one of her many novels published when this non-fiction piece emerged from her journal pages. Munson's story demonstrates how the creation of a memoir can be therapy for both the author and the reader. We are literally invited along in her journey and are asked not to judge, but to participate in this healing adventure.

There are plentiful, thick descriptions of the lovely Montana countryside adorned in summer. My own ripe summertime memories of past parades and fireworks were evoked when the story moved into July. Her fluent thoughts on her upbringing as the "caboose" in an affluent WASP family, along with her sentiments about her father, a WW2 veteran and a member of the "greatest generation," deeply resonated with me. She tells of love, loss and redemption. Like Laura, I rebelled against cultural norms and searched for answers for how to find freedom, happiness and love. One of my favorite parts is her writing about her insights gained by living in Italy in her youth and then later revisiting the country with her daughter.

This craftily disguised self-help book demonstrates some deeply spiritual concepts that are hard to put into practice. With humor, she writes of "creating," "wanting," "self-love," and "suffering." Her message is an ancient one that transcends religious beliefs: "happiness lies within." She clearly had a great therapist!

One concern: If I hadn't liked her musings about Facebook so much, I might have wondered how that part fit into this tightly woven narrative. It was clear that she wanted to contrast her belonging to a virtual community with her active membership in an actual community. Though witty and an apt reflection on the computerized social network, this section jarred me out of the rhythm of the rest of the story.

Like summer, this book ended before I was ready for it to slip away. I will remember that I laughed out loud with the author in her misery on a whitewater rafting trip and I cried reading the Rilke poems on marriage as Laura Munson spoke her truth.

Laura Munson is a writer living in Montana. Her essay for the "Modern Love" column of the New York Times (published on August 2, 2009) called "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear" resulted in the publication of her first book. Visit her website.

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