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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Part 1, Chapters 1-2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Sorrow and Longing: How Can We Transform Pain into Creativity, Transcendence, and Love?”

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary: “How Should We Cope with Lost Love?”

The first part of this chapter takes the form of a memoir. Cain discusses her early childhood and the natural connection she had toward her mother. The bond was very tight, and she recalls fondly some early childhood memories. She also reveals that her grandfather was a rabbi who had escaped Nazi Germany, though most of the rest of his family and loved ones were killed. As Cain grew older and entered adolescence, a tension arose between her and her mother. Cain mentions that the tragedies her mother experienced caused her to be full of fear and worry. She imposed strict rules on her daughter and expected that Cain would follow in the family’s tradition of Orthodox Judaism. The pair would have many clashes because of this growing tension, and Cain soon became full of anxiety that if she stepped out of line, a fight would erupt. The imposition of expectations coupled with her mother’s fragility created a burden in Cain’s life, and as she approached her college years, she couldn’t wait to leave her mother’s home. While the focus is on her mother, it is also worth mentioning that while her mother is Orthodox Jewish, her father was surreptitiously atheist.