BOOK REVIEW: The Darkness of My Shattered Heart
a review of the memoir by Elizabeth Jordan
When I first went back to school in the fall of 2012, I did it, of course, to be able to make a better life for my family financially. But I also was going for answers. I had been struggling for over a decade with depression and anxiety rooted from a childhood trauma, and it made me ravenous for answers about mental health and the process of healing.
So when I was presented with the opportunity to read Elizabeth Jordan’s memoir, The Darkness of My Shattered Heart (Green Ivy Publishing), I was extremely excited. Jordan lost a boyfriend, a fiancé, and her parents, and struggled to be a caregiver to her chronically ill mother and her father with Alzheimer’s. She experienced a botched surgery which left her in pain and depressed – and she turned to alcohol to cope. I was ready to read about this journey of a woman going into the depths of depressive darkness and coming out through the other side. I was ready to read something real, tragic, and beautiful. Something I could relate to.
And to a certain extent, that’s what I got. Reading what Jordan experienced is definitely heartbreaking. But the most unfortunate part about the book is that the execution does not do justice to the piece that it could have been.
Perhaps the most problematic part was that the piece has many typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Though the content made an attempt to engage me, every error worked as a speed bump to what may have otherwise been a much more compelling ride.
The format also did not do the book many favors. The prose section in the beginning is pulled from Jordan’s personal diary/journal entries, and they read like there was not a whole lot of alteration to them. And while I have no doubt that it was therapeutic to write about these tragedies, the outcome was not as much a story with ups and downs to keep the reader hooked, but a laundry list of painful events. It was difficult to have a sense of place, or a grounding sense of who Jordan was as a person as she experienced all these traumatic losses.
The second half of the book is comprised of poetry that Jordan wrote throughout her long period of struggle, but their placement in the book is confusing. The poems are vague enough that it is usually difficult to understand what struggle they might be about, and it actually made the timeline of the memoir more difficult to comprehend. It would probably have been better to fit the poems in with the sections that they correlate with in order to maintain the timeline, but I also think it would require many of the other chapters to be further expanded upon.
The most compelling part of Jordan’s work (and coincidentally, the longest section) was about her parents and the decline in their health. The struggle of being a caregiver to both of her parents at the same time and attempting to give one the attention and care they needed without neglecting the other seemed an exercise in stressful futility. The pull between them and the friction it created between her and the rest of her family seemed like the most complicated conflict within the book, and from a critical standpoint, this section seemed the most polished and the most fleshed-out, taking up nearly 60 pages where most other chapters were only a handful.
In the land of hits and misses, The Darkness of My Shattered Heart seems like a miss, but it is a very unfortunate one. I believe that with the right editing and further revisions, this might have been a very compelling memoir. But the disproportionate amount of trauma and sadness throughout the book makes it feel like there is no journey or movement throughout the piece, and it sits still in the darkness.