Review: A Sorrow Named Joy by Sarah Chorn

Joy desires nothing more than her husband’s happiness. She spends her days creating the perfect life for him in their idyllic suburban home. Everything is neat, predictable, and in its place.

When Joy finds a picture that hints at a past she cannot remember, the facade cracks. As secrets are revealed, Joy realizes her blissful life is crumbling and to find herself, she must first lose herself.

Perfect, after all, is only an illusion.

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My Review

Thank you very much to the author, Sarah Chorn for sending me a review copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review! My opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn and am planning to read the sequel in March for #marchofthesequels, so when I was offered a review copy of A Sorrow Named Joy I was beyond excited to read it. This story is a fairly short Science Fiction novella, but a lot of emotion and heart are crammed into its pages.

Sarah Chorn is well known for her wonderful prose and it did not disappoint in any way. The character of Joy is heartbreaking. Her existence revolves entirely around the happiness of her husband Mike. I found myself wanting to slap her and tell her to find her own life:

And Joy… broke. Came apart. Spilled everywhere. A mess of colors and a riot of sensation, the hint of a woman but none of the substance. She felt that glass that had cracked earlier. Felt it in her soul, one thin pane holding back all this agony. Felt it break. Mike was gone and all that was left was emptiness. Who was she without him, the sun of her life, to define her?

“I made you dinner,” she sniffled. What a stupid thing to say. What a stupid thing to fixate on. But those were the only words she could find, and somehow her whole existence was bound up in them. I made you dinner. Like that was everything she was, and everything she ever wanted to be. A creature created to make things for a man named Mike.

There is a mystery to Joy’s story, I wanted to know how she had got to be so lacking in her own desires and interests. She seemed tied to the house and the grocery store – things which were familiar. I wondered if she was perhaps an amnesiac who was trying to go through the motions until her memories returned. I also had other theories about their situation, but I will not mention those here. The eventual reveal brings to light some questionable decisions made by her husband which have brought into being this kind of ‘non-life’ for Joy. Mike is a much more interesting character in the light of these decisions – a tortured soul who had allowed himself to wallow in his all-consuming raw emotions.

Another character in the story, Joy’s neighbour, Marlene, is going through a hard time and in need of friendship. Her marriage is breaking apart, and through her we see the strength of a woman in pain who knows she must keep going. I feel like the strength of people in the face of emotional pain is a theme in Chorn’s writing. It was tackled so expertly in Of Honey and Wildfires and here we see it again:

For a moment, their eyes met, and in them, Joy saw a wealth of understanding, of acceptance, of pain not given voice. This was a woman coming undone and yet fiercely refusing to break. This was strength in its purest form. Giants, Joy realized, truly did walk this world.

An event in the story causes Joy to undergo a kind of emotional awakening. She is now capable of feelings that do not solely revolve around Mike and she discovers a love for painting. She also retains her empathy for her husband but it is not the be all and end all of her existence:

She saw the exhaustion sitting on him, the way it slumped his shoulders, and wondered what kind of exhaustion it was. Did physical exhaustion weigh more than emotional exhaustion? Were they like warring dogs fighting over the scraps of him?

This was a short novella and I read it in one sitting. I would recommend it to anyone curious about Chorn’s writing.

About the Author

Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a freelance writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor with hEDS, and mom to two. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books. She has been running the review blog Bookworm Blues for over ten years, has been editing books for four, and has been a published author since 2019.

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