It seems like only yesterday I was reviewing Tikva Wolf’s Ask me About Polyamory! and quite frankly in this time of massive uncertainty, revealed oppression and polarized opinion I wondered whether reading and reviewing their second book was the most constructive use of my time. If you too are dealing with emotional upheaval on a horrifically divisive global scale, choosing where to spend your time and deciding where to fight most effectively… be reassured that spending a little time reading, absorbing and reflecting on the messages in Love, Retold can be a legitimate part of that, whilst also providing unexpected comfort and relief. For me the surprise in this book is that whilst it is beautifully drawn in a rather different–more detailed–style than the current day comic strip, it is the well-crafted prose accompanying the graphics which touches. Whilst the subject matter deals with interpersonal relationships, it also gives voice to perspectives on freedom, grief, uncertainty and connection that we all experience at every level.
From a purely polyamorous perspective, Love, Retold personifies non-violent and exploratory angles on our perceived powerlessness created by an ultimate truth; we cannot control others or their willingness to be in a relationship with us, if we truly seek to love. Accepting this truth entails a willingness to accept the joy along with the pain and is precisely what makes love, wherever and however we find it, so precarious and so precious.
Don’t look for solutions in this book for you will find none. But you will find a better understanding of the common and poignant experiences which bind us all together because pain exists for which there is no obvious or one-size-fits-all solution… like what do you do when a much loved partner decides to climb the relationship escalator with another–an escalator that they have perhaps previously shunned? How do you cope when the uncertainty of your relationships is suddenly revealed by fear of loss? Can you reach a mutually satisfactory solution, or must you spiral inwards depending only on supposedly healthy but often lonely tools of self-care?
You’re getting buckled in and going in a direction that will take us far apart. I know you’d never want to go on that ride with me. I used to think that was a form of deep connection between us, but what if it was merely the result of your never valuing us sharing each other’s company?
Those of us choosing consensual non-monogamy have often taken steps out of our comfort zones and attempted to dismantle systemic restriction only to replace them with other self-imposed constraints. Realising and undoing those constraints is sometimes more painful than going against the system not of our making and for which we can blame others. Love, Retold provides a moving third eye on our relationship journeys through a deeply vulnerable, flawed human being and narrator. Consisting of short graphically depicted key moments in Wolf’s own life, it delves into the inconsistency of our fundamental needs, like freedom versus security, our desire for connection whilst preserving our personal space, the hunger for knowledge but the attraction of mystery.
What does this book bring to me personally? A resonance that we’re all seeking for ways in which we can be happy but that our happiness is short lived and worth very little if it comes at the expense of others’ right to their own happiness. The first story moved me to tears–enough to know that I had to take my time with this book to reflect on and reinforce my own ethics which are so important, now more than ever.
Whilst we must not allow books like this one to lull us into a ‘love-and-light’ complacency, it is a timely reminder that at our core we all strive for the same needs even if our approaches might be drastically and sometimes despicably opposed. Fight hard, but don’t lose your compassion for others or yourself. Fight hard, but don’t let your anger drive you to become what you hate. Fight hard, but do not lose sight of the fact that those you fight are also human, just as you are.