In this career-defining work, Browning explores the breaking point every mind has after finding her own limit during a gauntlet of traumatic events. Pulled out of this blast-crater moment in her life by a friend, she is brought away from the insanity and deep into the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains where, standing in front of a herd of wild buffalo, she comes face to face with the terms we all must come to surrounding the loss we face in this life. Offering no answers and seeking no pity, Browning lays herself bare in this radically authentic account. She carries restricted subjects such as miscarriage, mental illness, and suicide out of the silence by offering her own private journey as an example of the power of transcendence.
“In this spellbinding book, poet and novelist Browning spares no detail in telling the story of her descent into profound grief as one loss piled upon another. Though small, this effective and plainspoken memoir is densely packed with tales of harrowing experiences that require emotional, intellectual, and spiritual investments on the part of the reader. Browning’s journey of recovery will be of help to anyone looking for courage in difficult times.” | Read Full Review
“A laconic, beautiful, and deeply insightful account about coping with loss.”
–Kirkus Reviews | Read Full Review
“Browning’s essay explores the confluence of natural and interior landscapes in a manner both beautiful and searing.”
“Impressively candid and articulate, extraordinarily honest and insightful, exceptionally well written, organized and presented, To Lose the Madness: Field Notes on Trauma, Loss and Radical Authenticity is an inherently compelling read from cover to cover. Thoughtful and thought-provoking from first page to last, To Lose the Madness is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.”
–Midwest Book Review, *Reviewer’s Choice
“Browning brings us inside the disoriented unfolding of a life taking new shape after trauma. This is not a ‘tie a neat bow around it’ trauma and recovery story with a too-simple happy ending, but a messy, honest look at a life that will never be the same.”
–Lilly Dancyger, Deputy Editor of Narratively
“To Lose the Madness is an essay built from the bones of the earth. Browning offers a stripped down, belly-to-the-ground, howling manifesto to authenticity, the truth that resides beneath layers of flesh and soil. It is a roadmap of hard-won scars and suffering, the kind of suffering that carves a life like glaciers carve landscapes. Where it has been, a riverbed of beauty and self-knowledge has been left.”
–Jason Kirkey, award-winning author of The Salmon in the Spring
“This is L.M. Browning’s most personally revealing book to date—and perhaps her best. As intensely personal as it is, it grapples with questions and struggles that are universal, questions that afflict modern humanity, questions that we really haven’t figured out at all. What is the way to deal with pain in a world that seems so intent on sanitizing and sedating us? Do our struggles serve some useful purpose? How, in an age of shallowness can we re-claim our deepest selves? How, in in age of individualism, can we re-discover our place in the family of life? Rather than provide facile answers, Browning offers her own journey as evidence for the possibility of healing not through forgetting or letting go, but by entering more deeply into the story of our pain; and she offers a way to engage with suffering not merely by looking within, but by engaging the cosmos, by entering into deeper relationship with the community of living beings. It is a book that offers a brief but deep glimpse at a writer’s soul, and, in doing so, a glimpse at our own.”
–Theodore Richards, award-winning author of Cosmosophia
“L.M. Browning’s To Lose the Madness is a road trip with a friend, one who’s been there, and who knows the only way home is through.”
–James Scott Smith, author of Water, Rocks and Trees and The Expanse of All Things
“To Lose the Madness, teaches much about ‘trauma, loss, and radical authenticity’ with wisdom, awe, and grace. While her journey is unique, it reveals the universality of brokenness and the yearning for connection. I’m grateful for Browning’s willingness to explore her own suffering—and transcendence—so honestly and poetically; the resulting generous, sage essay is a guide for everyone.”
–Iris Graville, author of Hiking Naked
“To Lose the Madness is poignant, it is granular and gritty, it sings without avoiding the grit. From the depth of a despair often not spoken for, Browning offers her reader a compassionate voice of witnessing for herself and for anyone who has been touched by this kind of suffering.”
–Gary Whited, award-winning author of Having Listened
Note from the Author
Unlike other books in my library, I wrote To Lose the Madness with absolutely no intention of sharing it with others. I wrote this essay and presented it for an advance narrative nonfiction course at Harvard as a way to “process” a period in my life of severe mental strain following a gauntlet of trauma events, including the miscarriage of twins. After class, people began coming up to me privately telling me their stories of suffering, lost children, and mental breakdown. It was as though my piece had given voice to this unspoken, hidden movement of wounded people around me struggling silently through each day.
This book, more than any other I have written, is a conversation starter and it is a needed conversation. So I―a notoriously private person―am going to share the story of my most difficult moments with the world. The prospect of this is both exciting and terrifying. Fear and trembling aside, I am 35-years-old, and I have come to realize that I have no answers―not one. I used to believe in answers but I don’t anymore. Instead, I have only my journey and the time has come to own it.
As those closest to me learned of my intention to release this story they asked me, “Why share all this with the world? Why put this much of myself out there?” The response: Because I’m broken. We’re all broken and right now we’re all isolated within that brokenness. The cure for the loneliness is connection—connection with that broken part of ourselves and with each other—and we can’t achieve that connection while pretending we are okay. We’re not okay.
My previously published works were a lotus—an expression of hope—but I knew I had yet to speak of the mud—the darkness which makes these manifestations of hope an achievement of transcendence rather than simply one of literary merit. For me, leaving the story untold wasn’t an option. I knew I would have to tell everything that had happened not only for my own process of catharsis but for what I hoped to do as an author—to help highlight how we are all moving across the same terrain and suffering the same affliction, and in that, none of us are alone.