Six Degrees of Separation: From Sorrow and Bliss to Weather

This month we begin with Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. (See also Kate’s opening post.) This is my personal favourite from the Women’s Prize shortlist and couldn’t be a better pick for the Six Degrees starter this month because I’ll be skimming back through the novel this weekend in advance of my book club’s discussion of it on Monday. (We’re one of this year’s six book groups shadowing the Women’s Prize through a Reading Agency initiative, so we then have to give semi-official feedback on our experience of the book by Wednesday.)

#1 Sorrow and Bliss is a terrific tragicomedy about sisterhood and mental health – as is All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, with which it shares a loaded title word as well.


#2 Toews grew up in a Canadian Mennonite community, which leads me to my second choice, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen, a set of droll autobiographical essays that I read on a USA trip in 2017.


#3 During the same trip, I read Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles, a witty novel about Bennie Ford’s rather miserable life, presented in the form of his longwinded complaint letter to the airline that has treated him to an unexpected overnight layover in Chicago.


#4 Another laugh-out-loud book in the form of unlikely letters: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, in which Jason Fitger, an irascible middle-aged English professor in the Midwest, writes ambivalent letters of recommendation for students and colleagues.


#5 One more “Dear” book of letters – I just can’t get enough of the epistolary form: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. As the subtitle states, it’s a librarian’s love letters and breakup notes to books she’s adored and loathed. Casual and amusing, with good book recs.


#6 I’ll finish with Weather by Jenny Offill, one of my favourites from 2020, which is also voiced by a librarian. Through Lizzie, Offill captures modern anxiety about Trump-era politics, the climate crisis and making meaningful use of time.


I have read all the books in this month’s chain (the links above are to my Goodreads reviews), and in a time of relentless bad news have chosen to prioritize humour and keep my descriptions short and light. These are all books that made me laugh, sometimes despite their weighty content, and half of them are built around letters. I’ve also looped from one Women’s Prize-shortlisted title to another.

Where will your chain take you? Join us for #6Degrees of Separation! (Hosted on the first Saturday of each month by Kate W. of Books Are My Favourite and Best.) Next month’s starting point will be Wintering by Katherine May – though it’s summer here, it’s winter where Kate is in Australia!

Have you read any of my selections? Tempted by any you didn’t know before?

15 responses

  1. Oh, good on you for prioritising ‘light’ at the moment. Goodness knows, we need a bit of feel-good in our lives (oh, wait, that Jubilee …).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t seem to summon up much enthusiasm for the Jubilee!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nor me. Curmudgeons, aren’t we?


  2. Sorrow and Bliss seems to a popular book club choice. My book club will be reading it in July.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It should be a good one for discussion — lots of issues and complex characters.


  3. Couldn’t agree with you more about keeping things light. Astonishingly, I’ve read four of your choices!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cheery choices this month (well, with the exception of All My Puny Sorrows) – I loved Dear Committee Members, and who doesn’t like an epistolary novel?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am partial to an epistolary novel!


      1. Of course nowadays it’s all email novels? Texts?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There was an epistolary element to Sally Rooney’s latest, and that was e-mails, yes. I’ve also seen WhatsApp or Facebook messages. It imparts something of the same flavour.


  5. Nice to see some humorous books in a chain.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good chain! I’m a big fan of epistolary form books (I have done several posts of them) so I’ll look for the Dear American Airlines and Dear F 451–neither of which I have read.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed the Schumacher a lot, Offill too although I preferred Dept of Speculation. I will make Sorrow and Bliss one of my 20 Books of Summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I never did read Dear Fahrenheit 451, but it’s one of those books I’ve always wondered if I’d like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d find her voice very entertaining (though you’d know within a few pages if it annoyed you), and relate to a lot as a fellow librarian.

      Liked by 1 person

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