56 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2022

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Important Quotes

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“The tragedy of life is linked inescapably with its splendor.”

(Introduction, Page 19)

The passage illustrates Cain’s tendency in the book to focus the reader on the duality of sorrow and joy coexisting in life. Cain’s purpose is to make a case for the value in accepting suffering in life because being in touch with one’s sorrow is the only way to truly experience joy.

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“As the youngest child, I mattered so much to her, I mattered too much, I mattered like the sun.”

(Part 1, Chapter 1, Page 37)

Susan Cain is referencing her mother in this passage. The metaphor she uses, that Susan mattered to her mother as much as the sun, lays a foundation for the over-zealous and possessive tendencies her mother exhibited as Cain grew into adolescence and young adulthood.

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“Remember the linguistic origins of the word yearning: The place you suffer is the place you care. You hurt because you care. Therefore, the best response to pain is to dive deeper into your caring. Which is exactly the opposite of what most of us want to do. We want to avoid pain: to ward off the bitter by not caring quite so much about the sweet.”

(Part 1, Chapter 1, Page 45)

As is often the case, Cain draws the reader’s attention to the duality of pleasure and pain. She also suggests that people typically try to avoid confronting that which makes them uneasy, in this case suffering of any sort. Cain sees opportunity for growth when a person confronts their suffering rather than avoiding it or running away from it.