A Sorrow Named Joy by Sarah Chorn

A Sorrow Named Joy by Sarah Chorn

A copy of this book was very kindly provided me by the author. I can’t promise that this didn’t affect my feelings about it, but a book is a book is a book, however I acquire it, and I can promise that all opinions are my own.


Sarah Chorn is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a little while now. Both Of Honey and Wildfires and Seraphina’s Lament sound awesome, have been reviewed by people I trust (here and here) and have very pretty covers too. So, seeing Sarah’s offer of a copy of her new novella A Sorrow Named Joy on Twitter was irresistible.

And this is a charming story. I could quite happily have wallowed in Chorn’s writing all day, which is clear and precise, but also beautifully descriptive. It has a crafted feel to it that I really liked. We meet Joy straight away, living a small, domestic life that encompasses her house and garden and the local grocery store. Her days revolve around making her husband, Mike, happy. She cooks for him, cleans their home, grows herbs and vegetables in her garden for him, shops at the store for him. She gives herself wholeheartedly to this one task …

… I won’t lie. I wondered if I’d make it through after this beginning. Woman as servant to man is never a storyline I’m going to embrace. But sometimes you just have to trust that the author’s going to take you somewhere good, and there was something in the way that Joy approached her work and embraced the routine of her days that made me curious. Something that was maybe just a little off. So, I carried on …

When Joy finds a photo of herself and Mike while cleaning, a photo that she has no memory of having had taken, everything starts to come undone. I can’t tell you how everything unravels because that’s the crux of the story, but a gentle sci-fi vibe comes into play that soothed my ruffled feathers somewhat (even if it then made me side-eye Mike fairly hard for a chapter or two), and Joy’s journey of discovery was so touching that I kind of got lost in it after that.

There is a huge potential for spoilers in a story as pared back as this, so I’m going to keep things fairly brief. I particularly liked the way in which Mike came into focus as Joy learned more about herself. At the beginning of the story he is a distant, idolised figure (and I half expected some sort of sinister stabby development), but about halfway through we, and Joy, start to see him in a more human light. As if Joy’s liberation is also Mike’s liberation. As she grows so does he. I also appreciated the emotional heft that Mike’s side of things brought to the table. Joy’s discovery of herself is a beautiful thing on its own, but this was a richer tale for Chorn’s sympathetic telling of Mike’s story too.

If you’re looking for a one-sitting read that tells the story of a woman solving the mystery of herself, that is beautifully told with carefully chosen language and some light sci-fi touches, then look no further. If you’re looking to have your heart wrenched around a bit before being gently patted back into place and sprinkled with hope, pick this one up. This is a very immediate and emotional reading experience with lots of good things to say – things we all need to hear sometimes.


I’m going to leave you with my favourite line:

“I don’t know. For the first time in my existence, I am feeling things there are no words for. I think … I think what I am feeling is a lot like purple.”




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