Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book: "The Next Happy" by Tracey Cleantis

Disclosure: I first got to "know" Tracey Cleantis through her blog, originally known as La Belette Rouge (and now part of her website). I'm among the Facebook friends she mentions in the acknowledgements, "who endured a year of me asking questions about their grief."  I am quoted in the book, albeit under a different name.

That said...

I loved this book. I knew I probably would, because the subject matter is right up my alley, and because I love Tracey's blog, but it was great to finally have a copy in my hands and to read it for myself.

"The Next Happy" grew out of Tracey's personal story, which in some ways resembles my own. Like me, she wanted a baby -- and like me, she didn't get one, despite 20+ rounds of IUI, four-and-a-half IVFs, a failed adoption, and $100,000 down the drain.  And yet (and also like me), she will tell you that her life today is happier than she ever thought possible.  And that your life can be, too.  

The really great thing about this book is that it isn't just an infertility survival guide or memoir (although Tracey does refer to her own story throughout the book to illustrate some of her points). It's applicable to anyone who has had to let go of a a cherished dream and try to find happiness elsewhere. In its pages we meet people whose dreams included running a hotel in Atlantic City, earning a master's degree, being an entrepreneur, being a martial arts expert, owning a dream home, hosting a talk show (a la Oprah), attending West Point, being in a committed relationship with the seemingly perfect partner, and  becoming a diplomat.  All of them had to let these dreams go.

Tracey refers to herself as "the Dr. Kevorkian of dreams," which sounds kind of ominous -- but the book is highly readable, full of common-sense insights, practical advice, humour and empathy. Writing in a warm, chatty style, Tracey examines topics that include:
  • our "never give up" culture,
  • the consequences of not giving up,
  • when and how to say goodbye to a dream,
  • acknowledging just how much this sucks (grief work),
  • "the ugly stepsiblings of emotion" (envy, fear, shame) and how to deal with them,
  • getting support from family, friends, professionals and others,
  • the search for meaning,
  • identifying the symbolic meaning of your original dream (what were you really hoping to get, and how else can you do that), and
  • getting to your next happy.
Each chapter includes case studies, Tracey's professional observations from the therapy couch, a checklist of self-help questions and suggestions to get you thinking, and (best of all, IMHO, as an avid moviegoer), a "Movie Rx" -- a movie recommendation which reflects the themes of the chapter. Among Tracey's picks: "Silver Linings Playbook," "Ordinary People," "Amadeus" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

"There is always hope for a happy life," Tracey says near the book's end. "It takes work. It isn't easy. But if you believe in it, if you are open to all possibilities, and if you do the work, it does happen." I agree! I so wish that a book like this had been around when I was making the transition from fertility treatments to childless/free living.

This was book #2 that I've read so far in 2015.

(Actually, it's #3, but I'm still working on a review of #2, lol. So to make it easy, we'll call it #2.)


  1. I'm super excited about this book!!!! Thank you for the amazing review!

  2. I will definitely have to read this. It sounds like something I could use right now, while in the midst of my own version of a midlife crisis... lol. But first, I have to finish The Wild Oats Project, which I started last night, btw. Thank you for getting me reading again- I haven't been making time to read lately, and I've misssed it.

  3. Wonderful review, Loribeth. I'd heard Tracy had a book out, but for some reason was in two minds about buying it. Perhaps I only discovered her blog very late in the piece, when she wasn't blogging very much at all, so I don't really know her voice. Now though you've convinced me!

    PS. I love her "Dr Kevorkian of dreams" comment.

  4. Ohhhhh...that sounds like a great book! However, I may have to put it on hold as I have so many other books to read (and there's already a list written in my wishlist!). ARRRGGGHHH he he he...

  5. Sounds like a good book to read. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Ok, I'm convinced. Thanks for the thorough review, I now plan on reading it.

    So much is spoken in our culture about striving for dreams, I have to love that something is being written about letting them go.

    Plus, I'm rather bored with my own "current sad" so although I trust I'll move on from this when I'm ready, a different perspective wouldn't be such a bad idea.

  7. I loved this book, loved loved loved it! And now I'm going to search to see if I can pick you out in the quotes... :) Such a great message, and so accessible. I loved the Movie RX, too. It's a great book, one of my favorites from when I was first resolving childfree.