Joy Enough: A Memoir
February 2019 Selection, Emma Roberts's Belletrist Book Club
From a bracing new voice comes this life-affirming memoir of a daughter making and remaking her life in her mother’s image.
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.
Praise for Joy Enough: A Memoir
Written with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and heart's beating.... McColl's resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy.
— Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)
Even a well-worn topic can become the occasion for stunningly original writing, and such is the case with McColl’s exquisite memoir, Joy Enough.... McColl’s gift is in distilling a lifetime — the relationships, hopes nurtured then dashed, joys still sought, even at life’s end — into vignettes of great beauty, ordinary moments held up for loving examination.... The book begins, slyly enough, with a literary question: ‘I loved my mother, and she died. Is that a story?’ It turns out that the answer is yes, and if the mother is anything like Allison, you will want to read it, and to know her.
— Kate Tuttle, Los Angeles Times
It doesn’t take long to find yourself in McColl’s rhythm, attuned to the beautiful colors and fragrances and tastes that lodge themselves in our memories.... McColl’s argument — that these small moments make up a life, that these small moments are life – is persuasive, and it is presented with humor and charm.... This is a book about an extraordinary figure who was a housewife, mother, and divorcee. The word ‘mother’ doesn’t entirely do her justice, and yet that’s what this memoir does: does her justice, in more than a summarizing word.
— Rachel Kong, New York Times Book Review
Joy Enough is so compelling that I stayed up most of the night while traveling by train in a sleeper car. Sarah McColl’s exquisite memoir is the perfect balm for anyone who has experienced the sharp sting of loneliness or inhabited the liminal space between grief and happiness.
— Michele Filgate, writer and contributing editor at LitHub
Sarah McColl’s Joy Enough resonates with the immediacy of a love letter and the dark wonder of a dream. A tender, candid, force field of an elegy, compressed and expansive at once.
— Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship
In beautiful, spare prose, Sarah McColl offers an elegant and deeply-felt meditation on loss that is steeped in the pleasures of this life: in good bread and soft sweaters, friendship, flirtation, and especially love. Joy Enough is a memoir about the death of a mother and a marriage, yes, but more than that, it’s about the new life that can spring from those empty spaces. A gorgeous, painful, exhilarating debut.
— Kirstin Valdez-Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas
How can a memoirist take as her subject such a dark night of the soul—a simultaneous divorce and the death of a beloved mother—and forge such greedy, life-affirming grace? Sarah McColl’s dense and lyrical narrative vignettes are rich with insight and enlivened with humor. Joy Enough will fill every reader with joy.
— Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs
Joy Enough is a diamond in book form, a beauty forged by the weight of loss and learning. It stunned me with its taut clarity, with the way it probes - quietly, gently, unflinchingly - the parts of life that a lot of us don't like to look at: death, divorce, the pleasures and pitfalls of the body. This may be Sarah McColl's debut, but it's a towering achievement by any standard. McColl has a rare talent, and it shines.
— Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life and Delancey
Beautifully tender; a deceptively delicate slow-burn story of grief and love and the desire to hold close those we love.
— Sophie Mackintosh. Booker Longlisted author of The Water Cure
"Some books are so profound they need to be shared immediately. Others are so sacred, you can't bear to loan them out. Joy Enough is both—so consider buying two copies. McColl's remarkable, pitch-perfect memoir is an exploration of the choices we make, and the ones beyond our control. Within that is a masterfully written, musically paced narrative that rocks awake your emotional center. It's not simply that McColl is a uniquely gifted writer—she is—it's that she's generous with her gifts. This book has a transformative, healing quality—it's the kind of book that will remain your dear friend, that will be there for you, long after you've finished the last page.
— Piper Weiss, author of You All Grow Up and Leave Me
Oh, my heart. Joy Enough is a stunningly beautiful and meditative map of loss—a mother, a marriage, an idea of what life is supposed to be. In prose both poetic and laser-focused, Sarah McColl gives us the seemingly small and gut-punch memories that make up the truth about living through loss and living through love: a garden, a grocery list; a regret, a realization; that thing he said that we wish we could forget and that thing she said that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our goddamn lives. I will carry this book with me for the rest of my goddamn life: a manual, a friend, an inspiration.
— Megan Stielstra, author of The Wrong Way to Save Your Life
What if the greatest love you ever had was your mother? In sensuous and elliptical prose, Sarah McColl takes us into the small spaces that contain a life, revealing both the emptiness left by the loss of her mother and the joy that endures. I was intoxicated by this book from start to finish. McColl has a superfan now.
— Sarah Hepola, author of Blackout