The Way We Weren't

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This gut wrenching tale of abandonment makes us ask giant, soul-bending questions, like ‘Does anyone ever know anyone?’ and ‘Are we always the creators of our own misery?’ A brave story of one woman’s fight to survive, most of all, her own proclivities.
— Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
Jill Talbot has written an audacious memoir that refuses, at every turn, easy answers. I devoured this book, rooting for Talbot to escape her own obsessions, but fascinated by the characters and obsessions created. THE WAY WE WEREN’T is an exorcism. Until I’d read it, it had never occurred to me that every exorcism is preceded by a work of invention.
— Kerry Howley, author of Thrown
THE WAY WE WEREN’T is the perfect memoir—one that takes apart the genre itself and rearranges it into an aching lyric of loss and unassailable love for her daughter. A redemptive search for a place to call home.
— Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld
Jill Talbot’s memoir-in-essays gloriously and disarmingly proves that the ephemera of one’s life is capable of yielding an intimacy that we can hardly bear, but that we would never give up. A bewitching meditation on love, loss, and motherhood.”
— Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost
This book shines with hard-won wisdom and quiet beauty. Structurally innovative and exquisitely wrought, it is impossible to escape this spinning beacon of a book unchanged.
— Jessica Hendry Nelson, author of If Only You People Could Follow Directions
THE WAY WE WEREN’T is an essayistic howl against loneliness, loss, and transience and a heartbreaking meditation on parenthood, passion, escape, and engagement.
— Steven Church, author of Ultrasonic: Essays
Powerful, effective, and relentless, Talbot reminds us that life is always half-highway and half-dirt road, that our experiences—no matter how universal—demand we pave the way ourselves.
— B.J. Hollars, author of Dispatches from the Drownings

The Way We Weren't: A Memoir

Soft Skull Press | 2015

After years of futon passion, Hemingway discussions, and three-mile runs, Jill Talbot’s relationship with a man carved in her doubts so deep she wrote to ignore them. And even though he was as unwilling to commit to a place or a job as Talbot was to marrying him, he insisted that she keep the baby when a pregnancy surprised them during their fourth year together. As it turned out, Kenny wasn't able to commit to a child either, so when the court ordered visitation and support for their four-month-old daughter, he vanished. His disappearing act was the catalyst for Talbot’s own, as she moved her daughter through nine states in as many years—running from the memory of their failed relationship and the hope of an impossible reunion, all the while raising a daughter on her own. Then, one day while packing boxes, she found a photograph that changed everything.

In this memoir-in-essays, Talbot attempts to set the record straight, even as she argues that our shared histories are merely competing stories we choose to tell ourselves. A bold look at the challenges of love and the struggles of a single mother in America today, The Way We Weren't tells a complex, unforgettable story of loss and leaving, and of how Talbot learned that writing can't bring anything back, but that because of it, nothing is ever really lost.