In poetic prose, Forrester navigates leaving a life in one state and picking up in another and repeating the process through various and vast personal, social, and political landscapes. It's a personal story and it's an investigation of change and how we tend to hide away the most valuable parts of ourselves, especially, paradoxically, the parts that help us survive change, the parts that make us Soft-Hearted, and we need more soft-heartedness in all times and in all places.
An absolutely gorgeous, heart-wrenching book. Forrester goes deep within to uncover her own soft-heart so she can help the rest of us find ours. Written with an unflinching eye toward herself and the world around her, Soft-Hearted Stories reminds us that there is tenderness in this world, and that it's worth fighting for. This book will haunt you (in a good way) and help you remember that kindness and compassion are powerful stances. Lest you think this is a sappy book, it is not. Not one drop of sap. Just the gorgeous razor's edge of life.
This book is gentle and deep and beautiful and fragmented and filled with life and grief and elk and chickens and wind and ghosts. Forrester's writing is simple at first, but upon rereading the book (which I did as soon as I finished it) there are layers to discover. Divorce is a painful death, and she discusses the isolation and grief for her readers to heal. The landscape of Colorado is another character here, and I hope that this writer continues to share her observations with her readers in many books. I want the next one already.
I devoured this book while in the woods in front of a fire. It felt like a close friend sitting beside me, telling me their stories, struggles, and questions. Not the day-to-day, but the raw, vulnerable beauty of being alive in this world right now. With each short, tender chapter, I was reminded of how essential it is to dwell in the soft spots rather than hide and harden them. We are often our best in those spaces and we need to rest in them more and more.
Forrester writes about change, survival, and community in these spare, lyrical vignettes. As the title suggests, there's a softness that surrounds the passages in this book, yet Forrester doesn't shy away from the hard conversations, whether it's confronting others or having to confront herself. With compassion and transcendent grace, she looks directly into heartache, grief, and inequality, and shows how sometimes love means sitting in the discomfort long enough to learn from it. Calm and confident, Forrester clears a path for healing through words. We are lucky to have this book in the world.
Forrester is a brilliant writer, but this book contains lies I can no longer keep quiet about. Lies about me. Misrepresentations.
I will quote the passage.
“You find out, though, some things about joy and I’ll speak in metaphor and mixed-up-ness to protect myself from slander, but the truth is that everyone’s eyes are filled with sticks and words are stones and a woman who says she’s an orphan has married, rich parents in San Francisco who welcome her with open arms, you find out, all while she’s telling everyone else on social media she has nothing and no one and a woman who says she’s a shepherd on her family’s organic mulit-generational family farm says she’s been legally homeless for six years during that same period of time and no one calls any of them to task. No one. Not even me.”
I have no idea who the “woman from San Francisco” is, but the other woman is me. To clarify the “mixed-up-edness” Forrester uses do explain away slander, I will make things clear.
1- I moved to a family farm outside Portland in 2010 from Las Vegas and lived there with no lease for several years with my family. In a conversation, we discussed issues surrounding the definitions of homelessness. I was not houseless, but by definition I was homeless. I’m not sure what there is to call out. We were living in poverty at the time I met Forrester, and as we worked together on her Unchaste Readers series, she was intimate with my situation. During this time, she was not yet divorced she was comfortably situated in terms of finance.
2 - I did not claim to be a shepherdess (dismissive gendered word) but I did grow flowers and keep bees. Again, I fail to see what there is to call out.
3 - it was not a “multi-generational” farm. The farm had recently been acquired, through hard work and dedication by a woman of color and her now ex-husband.
4 - Forrester apparently feigned support for my family, myself, my imperfections, my struggles and even my choices. I can no longer let this fester in me. I do not see what there was to call out here, besides petty lies.
We were all learning and growing at the time, and there was plenty of behavior to call out, but instead, Forrester picked on a family in poverty and a fledgling farm newly owned by a woman of color. Her attempt at mixed-up-edness was not well executed and I’ve had too many people bring this passage to my attention not to be brave enough to set this record straight. We were all learning and growing, but with this book and lack of compassion within, I believe Forrester had as far to go as a hawk from the moon.
I began reading this book late one night when I couldn't sleep. I couldn't put it down and picked it up again immediately when I awoke the next morning. The stories in it are so real - I could FEEL them. They comforted me in the best way, and I continued to read it late at night and early in the morning, as if the book was just too magical to be read in any times not as intimate as those. There were pages I read twice, for the second time out loud, as the words were too beautiful to not be spoken. There is this balance of pain and comfort, loneliness and presence that was just perfect for me.
Soft hearted and diminutive in size, it’s actually powerful and large in scope for writers mining their pasts, searching memory and writing their stories. It is serving as reference as muse for me. Jenny Forrester writes well, we know that, but more importantly, she understands writers. This book proves that.