Florence Williams (Photo: Casie Zalud and W. W. Norton & Company)

A Live Outside Book Club Q and A with ‘Heartbreak’ Author Florence Williams

After her 25-year marriage ended in divorce, the Outside contributing editor turned to science—and a river trip—to navigate through the darkness. Register here for our Zoom book discussion on March 9.


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Last fall, Outside’s Culture team relaunched the Outside Book Club. Each month since, we’ve chosen a work of fiction or nonfiction that we think is worth your attention, discussed it in our Facebook group, and then published a Q and A with the author at month’s end, exclusively available to Outside+ members. Our picks so far have included everything from Pulitzer-winning novelist Richard Powers’s latest release, Bewilderment, to promising travel writer Jordan Salama’s debut book, Every Day the River Changes, a travelogue about his journey down Colombia’s longest river.

This month we’ve been reading and discussing Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey, by Outside contributor Florence Williams. In her stories for the magazine, Williams has explored how the brain responds to risk, how people have sought solace from sexual trauma in the outdoors, and the myriad other mental benefits of time spent in nature. As Outside Book Club host Elizabeth Hightower Allen wrote in her introduction to this pick, “This memoir explores the impact of wilderness on the heart: how nature can soften, crack open, and slowly knit it back into a new shape. After her husband of 25 years tells her he wants a divorce, Williams’s life is shattered. In the wreckage, she does what she does best—she turns to scientific research to grope her way through the darkness.”

Register for the Q&A Here

For this book choice, we’re trying something new: we’ll be hosting a live conversation for Outside+ members with Williams on Zoom next Wednesday, March 9, at 4 P.M. Mountain Time, moderated by Allen, who was Outside’s longtime features editor and worked with Williams on most of her stories for the magazine, as well as on the editing of Heartbreak. This will be your chance to speak with the author directly about science and the heart.

To join the conversation, register for the Zoom event by clicking the button above. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt of Heartbreak on Outside or hear Williams on a new episode of the Outside Podcast (available wherever you get your podcasts).

Lead Photo: Casie Zalud and W. W. Norton & Company