Letting go of the past. Moving on to something different, maybe something better. It’s more difficult for some of us than others. It’s definitely something I’ve struggled with in the past, so when I was offered the chance to read and review Lessons in Letting Go by Allison Janda, I figured maybe I could learn a few things.
It all starts out as a typical day when introvert-to-the-nth-degree Ingrid’s life burns down as badly as those charred grilled cheese sandwiches that were meant for dinner but are now headed for the sink’s garbage disposal. Sure, she knew that she and her husband Matthew were in a bit of a slump, one of those rough patches that happens in every marriage, but his announcement that he’s leaving her for someone who wants kids rocks her to the core. Thank goodness for her best friend Nicole, who takes over and begins rearranging Ingrid’s life to accommodate this wreckage. As a result of Nicole’s incessant urging, Ingrid decides to leave her nursing job and sign up as a travel nurse. It’s a terrifying prospect, moving so far from the only home she’s ever known and leaving the only job she’s ever had, but maybe this will be just what she needs.
Scratch that. Ingrid’s frightened and miserable as soon as she arrives in Portland, set to begin a 13-week assignment. She can barely bring herself to leave her apartment and has no clue why she ever thought this was a good idea…until she’s assigned to serve as a nurse to Benjamin, a terminal cancer patient whose outlook on life is the exact opposite of Ingrid’s. Benjamin, who’s determined to squeeze every last drop out of the short amount of time he has left, sees something in Ingrid, something that compels him to create a series of envelopes for her, stuffed with ideas for things to do and places to go when she’s feeling a certain way or needing something specific. And with these envelopes, Ingrid forges not just a friendship with Benjamin, but a newfound confidence in herself and her ability to stand on her own two feet.
This is a lovely story of growth, of pushing boundaries, stepping outside your comfort zone, and learning to accept and love all the facets of yourself. Ingrid and Benjamin’s friendship is both charming and bittersweet, a constant reminder that life is short but that the lives we touch will continue on after we’re gone and a gentle suggestion that while we may want to wallow in the what-might-have-been, life is for the living. Push your boundaries and face your fears, because you never know what new opportunities you’ll find to love.
This would be a fantastic book for introverts (which I am, in a pretty severe way), or someone who understands them. Ingrid has no family and has spent her life clinging to her husband and best friend; post-breakup, she’s alone in a way similar to Lucy from While You Were Sleeping (one of my favorite movies). Her foray into travel nursing (which I never knew existed until I read this book!) is the first step she didn’t know how to take herself, as is each adventure she goes on thanks to or with Benjamin, until the day arrives when she’s able to push herself out of her comfort zone on her own. If you’re not introverted or don’t understand or have empathy for people who are (and I’ve come across them!), I’m not sure this would be the book for you (much like I’ve seen people blow off Lo’s anxiety in The Woman in Cabin 10 as being annoying. If you don’t understand it, you may be quick to chalk it up to weakness or an annoyance, but if you get it, you get it). Ingrid does struggle a lot with making the leap to a different kind of life, and it’s something that I would definitely have a difficult time doing as well, so I felt like I understood her.
This was a lovely, heartfelt read, underscored with the looming tragedy that comes with a terminal diagnosis, but with that, Ms. Janda serves up a heaping score of hope, and of knowing that the love we put into those around us will carry on long after our death. Huge thanks to Allison Janda for sending me a copy of Lessons in Letting Go for review; I definitely feel like I’ve learned a few things from Ingrid and Benjamin.
Visit Allison Janda’s website here.