Who’s ready to get angsty and emotional? The first poem in Samantha King’s Born to Love, Cursed to Feel reads like a Cosmo horoscope — it hits home fairly hard but feels overly generalized. The entire first half of the book expresses how lonely and unwanted you can feel in relationships — you know, the kind where you have to write yourself in, the ones that leave you feeling lost both during and after, the ones that still haunt you with unanswered questions years after you’ve moved on. King speaks of how people can break you, manipulate you, and toss you aside like they never expressed any affections for you. These people come into your life without your permission, but you can turn the tables on them by letting your pain strengthen you.
As you continue to travel through the poems, it becomes evident that King is still madly in love with a man who doesn’t reciprocate her love. Instead he is in love with another, whom she ends up meeting at one point. King’s act of digging up memories of her former lover allows him to take control of her once again. Here is a woman who is willing to sacrifice everything she has, down to the essence of herself, just to uplift a man who will never say “thank you.” To him, she is a placeholder for another woman. As she puts in “Disorder”: “I’m obsessed with love from an indifferent lover.” Every other page, King says that she has moved on and will no longer succumb to the power this man has, but then breaks this promise to herself on every page that follows. She knows that he is toxic for her, going so far as to say that she quits him as if he were a “full time job” and yet she allows him to borrow shards of her heart (the same one that he shattered) to fill in his own broken heart.
This constant flip-flopping leaves the reader increasingly frustrated. Roughly halfway through the book, we finally see her go on a first date with someone else. I became hopeful that maybe she would recover and move in a direction away from him. No. She stays with this immature man, Lewis. When they get into a fight, he becomes violent, and her thoughts still echo those from the beginning, repeating the same thoughts and broken promises that have consumed her mind and ultimately her life. The last ten pages pass by quicker than the rest of the book, the ending ultimately unceremonious. King has seemingly, finally, moved on. Her poem “Retrospect” sums up her outlook as the book comes to an end.
I had hoped that I would have a connection with the words in “Retrospect,” since I myself lived through a similar situation, but I did not. Nothing proposed was epiphany-inspiring or a revelation of any sort. Even still, however, I wish I had known about this book while I was going through that situation. Born to Love, Cursed to Feel would have gently held my hand and walked me through that time with eloquence and reassurance that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes it’s hard to see how addicted you are to a person or a relationship. This book is alright overall and I recommend it to anyone going through a breakup or to anyone in a bad relationship “knowing that it will get better soon.” Even though it will not be finding a permanent place on my bookshelves, the quality of the writing is not lacking.