Book Review | Florence Williams’s “Heartbreak” is the Post-Breakup Balm You Need

Anne Marie Wells
12 min readMay 24, 2022
The book cover for Florence Williams’s Heartbreak a Personal and Scientific Journey. A sunset with a white moon shines upon snowy, rocky cliffs. The scape is framed by another rock formation in the shape of a heart.
Florence Williams’s “Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey”

[This review is now available in audio on YouTube]

Part memoir, part science, after receiving the disorienting news that her husband of 25 years wanted a divorce so he could find his soulmate, author and journalist Florence Williams followed her instincts on how to cope: She wrote about it.

The author of the well-received nonfiction books, “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History” and “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative,” set off on a quest to understand her psychological and physiological responses to her own heartbreak, and what to do about it based on scientific data measuring biological markers and long-term health outcomes.

I have the physical copy of the book, but I admit, I listened to it on my phone. Her audiobook listens like a podcast with her actual recordings of conversations with heartbreak experts, her friends, and a romantic interest peppered throughout the work.

I felt deeply connected to her words for a few reasons.

  1. I read Florence’s book “The Nature Fix” years earlier. Her journey to understand how nature affects our brains was sparked after her now-ex husband uprooted the life she loved in Boulder, Colorado for a job opportunity in Washington, D.C. She struggled to maintain the same outdoor pursuits that filled her life in Boulder, and she was falling deeper and deeper into an urban depression. I had struggled in the same way in 2015 when I left Jackson Hole, Wyoming and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota for love. “The Nature Fix” didn’t come out until 2018, but when I read it (after having moved back to Jackson), I understood the science behind why living in a city after living in a mountain resort was so challenging. I felt validated. I wasn’t just a snob floundering among the traffic and littered sidewalks, I was simply a victim of biology.
  2. When I began listening to her new book “Heartbreak” in early April, I was still in the Shock Phase of my most recent break up. After a year of long-distance, my friend of 20 years and I made the…