They're words most of us use all the time, the coinage of daily life: "Yes," "I know," "I was wrong"—the words that don't get in the way of what the other person is trying to communicate, that speak to our capacity to listen. In her new essay collection, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say, Kelly Corrigan shares her struggle to become fluent in those words, to be her highest and bravest self—to be more compassionate, to connect, to set boundaries, to know when to shut up. In "I Know," Corrigan reflects on the last weeks in the life of her dying friend, Liz, when all that was left to do was snuggle and cry: "Huddled in the foxhole, Liz and I had said it all. We were judgmental and bitchy together—desperate and existential too." In "I Was Wrong," she confesses her role in an epic family fight, concluding "Being wrong is not the same as being bad."
While the 12 essays sway with seriousness, there are plenty of winks and wisecracks: In "No," Corrigan celebrates her mother, who "#nevernotonce" indulged her "in the name of a hug." Does it follow that, raised by a "no pro," Corrigan herself is a "real ass-kicker" of a mom? "Ha," she writes—then proceeds to chronicle all the times she's caved on absolutely-nots issued to her children, giving in on everything from back-to-back sleepovers to watching the third season of The Bachelorette. If it's true that even women with loving partners sometimes feel they're going it alone when it comes to negotiating the terrain of intimacy, Corrigan's humane, luminous book reassures that while we may be on our own, we're on our own together.