…When it arrived, I jammed it into my too-full bag and took it on a work trip to the Midwest. On the flight home the next night, my clothes were rumpled and sweaty and the fat pads of my fingers were streaked with ink. I was weary with the satisfaction of good work and unwasted hours and wanted nothing but to exceed my seat’s narrow allotted space and fall asleep on the businesswoman next to me.
But unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting Amber’s book on take off.
And I read and read for hours. Delighted and destroyed to find this was a book full of You’s.
Sometimes, I think we desperately need to know our friends’ and lovers’ scars. That we’d be better for it. That they’d be better for it. But I also think that we are terrible at being still and watching them show us where it hurt and how. We are chronically squeamish, politely disinterested. Insatiably giddy for the trite conclusion.
Some of Amber’s stories bloated my lungs and guts and heart. Like someone standing above me and pouring buckets of ocean water in slowly and fully. When I walked off that flight, I weighed more for knowing her experiences. The fine details to the vague outlines I had heard over beers and brunches before. I told her once, when she was vulnerable enough to ask, that she is at her strongest when she is cracked open. Slow and authentic and faulted and wanting. That could be the title of this book, and I love her for writing it.
Years ago, I dated a fisherman and lobbyist who had a large, benign tumor in the palm of his hand. He wasn’t a very good man, honestly. But I think a lot of what drove his smarmy facade and habitual dishonesty and tendency to disappear was his brutal insecurity over this “deformity.” The first time I ran my fingers over the fleshy mound — over it and over it and over it — and assured him with my touch that it was a detail and not a flaw, you could almost see him break apart. You could almost hear the prehistoric cracks and groans that glaciers make when they thaw just enough to sluice off themselves and drift away. I never forgot the sound of that.
What I mean, I guess, is that I long for people who aren’t afraid of my wounds and my weaknesses (The desecrated parts of me. The jagged, lousy story lines, the things I want and don’t get. Not the parts that conjure pretty Jessica Chastain tears, but the full on ugly Claire Danes crying. God bless her…) And I want so much to see those parts of you. Maybe it’s obnoxious to call women writers Brave. Maybe we are getting tired of that. But it’s the hum of the word I hear when I read Amber at her best.
The Courage of vulnerability and openness and lack of poise is so illusive. So precious and so hard to sustain. And when we recognize it, we ought to hold it up and keep a space for it.
– Erica of Been Thinking
With the glittering city of Minneapolis and the quiet woods of Wisconsin alternating as a backdrop, ALL THE THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW chronicles what we wish those who made their way into our hearts could have known…and what we need to know for ourselves after they’ve made their way out again.
Written with a wry humor and quiet vulnerability, Amber L. Carter’s keen and unflinching observations of the human heart make each piece both intensely absorbing and startlingly familiar.
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