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05/28/2014 09:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

7 Books To Read With A Broken Heart

Toss out the Kleenex and sad, terry-cloth bathrobe. There's no blow in life that just the right book can't help you recover from...

To Help You Remember: La Vie Est Belle
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The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles

By Katherine Pancol

464 pages; Penguin Books

The French have a knack for living in the moment, and this international best-seller, just out in the States, makes for a lighthearted how-to. In prose that is as refreshing as a glass of Evian (but as addictive as chocolate), author Katherine Pancol plunges us into the world of Joséphine Cortès, a 40-year-old mother of two whose husband takes off with a manicurist on a wild scheme to run a Kenyan crocodile farm, leaving Joséphine practically penniless. She navigates around a hypercritical mother, a limelight-hogging sister and a diva of a teenage daughter. With the help of a few satisfying, if fairy godmother–esque plot twists, she learns that "...Life is like a dance partner...If you just relax and let go, you'll find yourself waltzing." Full of laugh-out-loud moments, the novel illustrates -- gently and intelligently -- how we have to keep taking tiny steps to create the lives we long for.
-- Susan Welsh

To Help You Recognize: Busy Hands, Bandaged Heart
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The Break-Up Activity Book: Crafting Your Way Through a Broken Heart

By Lynn Chang

104 pages; Prospect Park Books

This ingenious book includes exercises and crafts for every dip and rise of your emotional roller coaster, from abject misery and incandescent anger to "rejoining the living. " Interestingly enough, the field of revenge crafts, or "crying and creating," as Chang jokingly calls it, can turn out some pretty cool and useful items. For example, transform his silk tie into a trendy, midcentury-esque sachet; or, turn the sleeve of his favorite cashmere sweater into a doggy-faced coffee-cup koozie. Even if you don't lift a finger to knit, glue or sew, just reading the book will help you feel that anything -- including yourself -- can be rehabbed.
-- Susan Welsh

To Help You Recognize: You're So Not Alone
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Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers)

By Daniel Jones

229 pages; William Morrow

As editor of The New York Times' "Modern Love" column, Daniel Jones has nine years of experience in others' love and loss and, in this engaging summary of his findings, he examines all the different forms our search for happiness with another human being can take. Skip the bits about the lucky few with destruction-proof relationships, and focus on the much more common tales of misunderstanding, wasted effort, downright deception and sheer bad luck -- some of which manage to work out in the end! One of Jones' best insights: "Vulnerability is what love is all about...Only when we open ourselves to the possibility of loss can we allow for the possibility of love."
-- Susan Welsh

To Help You Realize: Believe It Or Not, It Could Have Been Worse
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You Should Have Known
By Jean Hanff Korelitz

448 pages; Grand Central Publishing

Reading this engrossing tale of a marital train wreck -- no, make that a marital mushroom cloud -- you may have the same feeling of wanting to step in and do something that occurs when you watch the blonde in a horror movie decide to go check out that awful noise in the attic. For a Manhattan couples therapist with a Harvard degree and years of experience diagnosing faults in others' relationships, Grace Reinhart Sachs is the last to figure out that not only is her husband leaving her, but maybe, just maybe, he is connected to a gruesome murder in her son's rarefied school community. It can't help but occur to any reader who's been through a garden-variety, albeit anguishing breakup that at least the parting of ways didn't spawn a homicide investigation. And since this is more of a psychological novel than a procedural thriller, Korelitz offers plenty to ponder about the way the ending of any partnership can set you willy-nilly on new roads both terrible and, truly, all for the best.
-- Susan Welsh

To Help You Figure Out: How To Get From Rage to Forgiveness
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This Is How You Lose Her

By Junot Diaz

224 pages; Riverhead

In these fast-moving, lingo-laden stories, many of which chronicle the life of a whip-smart Dominican-American writer called Yunior, Junot Díaz explores every permutation of romantic crisis imaginable. Adding to the complexity are the ties between characters trying to make it in the States and their loved ones (or dumped ones) back in the Dominican Republic. The teenage Yunior, after a poignant, doomed affair with a middle-age teacher, grows up as macho as his missing father, juggling women -- only to lose out on real love (how he describes the hit: "Like someone flew a plane into your soul. Like someone flew two planes into your soul.") Díaz pulls off the miracle of making you feel for a jerk. Will it make you forgive a real-life one? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's worth the 224 pages of effort.
-- Susan Welsh

To Help You See: The Next Love Is Coming
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Under the Wide and Starry Sky
By Nancy Horan

496 pages; Ballantine Books

In this novel, based on real events, eccentric, single-minded Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, a mother with three children, heads to Europe to escape her cheating husband. In a resort town, she picks up a young beau who turns out to be future famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. Thus begins Fanny's new life as the wife of a Bohemian British writer, with whom she explores the South Pacific (among other adventures). Though her new relationship isn't all smooth sailing, the story proves that whether in the 1830s or the early 2000s, American lives, at least American women's lives, do have exhilarating second acts.
-- Amy Shearn and Susan Welsh

To Help You Appreciate: You're (Finally!) Free
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Stag's Leap: Poems

By Sharon Olds

112 pages; Knopf

Sooner or later, it may happen to all of us: The guy we love just... well... leaves. After her marriage of 26 years fell apart, Olds wrote a book of poems that reads like a novel, one in which she learns to revel in the freedom of letting go and moving on, with courage, grace and joy. Yet another reason to read: Stag's Leap won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
-- Leigh Newman

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