56 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2022

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Key Figures

Susan Cain

Some of the book reads like a memoir as Susan Cain describes her childhood, her fixation with sad music, her relationships with her mother, and some of the ways her melancholic temperament manifests in her life. Significantly, Cain also reveals that she lost both her brother and father to COVID in 2020. As traumatic as these experiences were, Cain focuses more on the strained relationship she had with her mother. In a particularly tense scene, Cain unintentionally handed her journals to her mother while moving back home for the summer from college. In the journals, she let loose all her pent-up anger and hostility she felt toward her mother’s overbearing parenting style. After her mother read the journals, Cain believed that she had devastated her mother and their relationship beyond repair. This naturally created a sense of guilt, and Cain felt responsible for her mother’s emotional death. As Cain grappled with the strained relationship, she discovers that her grief was inextricably linked with a longing to return to her idealized childhood in which her mother was the bright light in her life.

Cain’s voice in the book is at times emphatic and at times restrained.