When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald once said some very nice things to me about my book Waiting For My Cats to Die (we met at a party). I remember her comments immediately made me think: she wants to write.

Well, her first novel, When It Happens to You, came out this month. Congratulations! It seems to be getting mixed reviews, but that’s fine. All my books do. Waiting For My Cats to Die has alternately been described as funny and heartwarming and as the most depressing book the reviewer had ever read.

One of Ringwald’s mixed reviews sold me however, and here’s why. Everyone who reads my blog knows my cat Buddy just died. A friend, who meant well, told me that it might be good to remember at this time that there are a lot worse things than losing a cat. I wanted to tell him, as a friend, to never say anything like that to a grieving person again.

One of the stories in When It Happens to You is about grief. I don’t know what kind of grief, but the reviewer says this:

When it happens to you, the narrator explains, you will not be comforted by reminding yourself of real tragedies, of floods and earthquakes and land mines. “Your heart doesn’t think,” Ringwald writes. “Your heart is stupid. It doesn’t consider the relativity of tragedy when it breaks.”

Amen, Molly. The heart can’t weigh which grief merits how much mourning. It just breaks. I would buy the book based on that insight alone. What others are saying about her book:

“When It Happens to You is absolutely lovely, a smart, emotionally sophisticated, intricately dovetailed novel of stories. World, I’m telling you now: Molly Ringwald is the real deal.” (Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia )

“Molly Ringwald’s eight electric stories are alive with Joycean insight-piercing, epiphanic moments of terror, humor, and transcendence. Together they offer a deeply moving portrait of modern life.” (Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints )

Ringwald also wrote an interesting and thoughtful op-ed comparing writing to acting.

I took this yesterday while I was doing the laundry. I’m comforted when the weather matches my feelings. Sunshine is an insult. Tonight I’m going to a pet bereavement group. Hopefully. I was told to call first in case it gets cancelled.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories by Molly Ringwald

  1. I knew there was a good reason to like Molly Ringwald! Thanks for sharing that and she is so spot on about grief. I’ll have to check her book out now too. Your friend must have not suffered much loss in his life(or is not a pet person?) for that kind of comment, but people say odd things to grieving people. I had just come back to work after my mother died and my manager gave me a card. I thought it was a bereavement card, but it was a funny belated birthday card! Can you imagine? Good for you to go to that meeting. I hope it didn’t get cancelled.

  2. “The position of cats is highest when civilization is at its peak. The uses of the cow, the horse, and the dog are obvious even to the illiterate but one must be educated in the uses of a cat. ”

    –Olivia Manning, companion to Siamese cats.

    So there.

  3. No wonder as a cat lover I’ve always been so enamored of the ancient Egyptians who revered cats. I think we’re a very long way from that sort of appreciation though, so we’ve definitely not “peaked”.

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