#ATBR2020 – Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala

Catching up on some reviews from the last days of July!

Thanks to Gallery Books for the free early copies in exchange for our honest reviews



Book Description:

For fans of Humans of New York and PostSecret, a collection of raw, urgent, and heartfelt stories, shared anonymously.

What would you confess if you knew it would never get back to your spouse, your colleagues, or your family? What story would you tell about your life if a stranger was willing to listen with no judgement, no stigma, and no consequences—just an unburdening and the relief of confession?

After graduating from law school, Helena Dea Bala was a lobbyist in Washington, DC, struggling to pay off her student loans. She felt lonely and unfulfilled but, after a chance conversation with a homeless man she often saw on her commute, she felt…better. Talking with a stranger, listening to his problems, and sharing her own made her feel connected and engaged in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Inspired, she posted an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. The response was huge—thousands of emails flooded her inbox. People were desperate for the opportunity to speak without being judged, to tell a story without worrying it would get back to friends, family, or coworkers—and so Craigslist Confessional was born.

The forty confessions in Craigslist Confessional are vivid, intimate, and real. Each story is told in the confessor’s voice; they range from devastating secrets (like addiction, depression, and trauma), to musings on lost love and reflections on a lifetime of hard choices. Some confessions are shocking, like the husband who is hiding his crippling sex addiction from his wife. Others are painful, like the man who is so depressed he rarely leaves his hoarder apartment. Some give us a glimpse into a brief chapter of someone’s life—like the girl who discovered that her boyfriend was cheating on her with a mutual friend, or the college student who became a high-end call girl. Others are inspiring, such as the woman who lost her son too young, but sees his memory live on through the people who received his donated organs.

Every confession presents a point of view not often seen, not often talked about. Craigslist Confessional challenges us to explore the depth of our empathy and it’s a call to listen to one another.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 5/5 stars

I read the introduction and already knew.  So I grabbed a box of Kleenex, a bottle of whiskey and settled in to pay close attention to these pages for the next few hours.

This is split into 5 categories:  Love, Regret, Loss, Identity, and Family.  And I found a little of myself in each of these categories.  The author listened to a cornucopia of humans and it was hard to read some of these very human revelations.  It’s one thing to read these types of experiences in a fictionalized tale… it’s completely a different feel when you know these are real people telling their own truths.  I legit cried through a few of these and realize I could probably use a confessional myself.  Don’t we all have a story or two we keep close to the chest? My heart is a bit heavier now.  The good part is that this makes me realize even more so to not be so quick to judge.  That there is probably way more going on behind the scenes than we could ever imagine and showing some compassion is a kindness that is easy to dole out.

Some people might find this to be too somber of a read or want some kind of reconciliation at the end of each very personal story.  But no one goes to confessionals to talk about all the good things going on.  They’re looking for a release for the things that are bothering them the most.  And the author provided them an outlet and I think that’s a remarkable thing.

My Thoughts: 4/5 stars 

If you could tell someone anything about yourself anonymously and without judgement, would you? I’m sure there’s a story or two or something weighing heavy on everyone’s mind that they would love to be able to share with someone. What usually stops us? The fear of judgement. Its incredible how invincible you can feel when you can hide behind anonymity.

CRAIGSLIST CONFESSIONAL is a collection of stories from real people that the author has accumulated and broken up into different sections for us. We get a wide variety of stories – addiction, abuse, love, loss, mental illness, assault, and so much more. This one hits you in a way you might not expect because these are true stories and they are from real people. It can be really easy to disconnect from some events you read about in a work of fiction, but knowing this is nonfiction makes it resonate with you in a completely different way.

This is more of a sombre read but confessions aren’t normally happy and exciting things for people to share. We get a look at parts of society you wouldn’t normally and I think this will stick with you for a while after turning that last page.

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