Book review: If I Knew Then by Jann Arden

Knowing of Jann Arden coincided with my family’s move to Calgary in the early 90’s. I’d never paid much attention to the word ‘insensitive’ until then. I’d just discovered the world of romance. I took on Jann’s emotions and words, practicing for when I might need to label them for myself.

Jann is one of those accessible, normal, Calgarians that I thought I had a chance of bumping into, maybe while skipping school with my friend Jami, having tea and scones in Kensington, or staying out too late at Michelangelo’s drinking coffee when everyone else drank martinis. We were broke, Jami and me, but we had poetry and vintage fashion, and we toted our notebooks all over town, shouting our verses in the wind. We had a plan for which poems we’d share with Jann. She could have them all if she wanted. But this was pre-internet, and we had no idea how to find her.

Now, decades later, Jann has a book about life as a crone. A crone is an old woman, wise, and typically post-menopausal. I get that she’s taking the word back, reclaiming it on behalf of her people, but I struggle with labels for women based on their fertility that don’t have a male equivalent. Anyway, I’m not quite a crone, but I hear her describe how one lives her life and I nod along. Yup, I’m that lady too. I’m the lady who talks to strangers, who tells random women they’re good moms, and who is comfortable in her body.

This book, If I Knew Then: Finding Wisdom in Failure and Power in Aging is a candid account of some of Jann’s self-declared failures and her experiences aging. There are funny quips and the kind of statements you might hear a real-life crone say, such as (paraphrasing here): If you think you’re drinking too much, you’re drinking too much.

What I found most meaningful was the section about her dad and forgiveness. I won’t ruin your voyage of discovery, but this is a lesson that’s hard for most of us to learn. Listening to Jann talk about it might help.

I listened to this book while doing the dishes, laundry, snow-shovelling, and cat-walking, but I bet this would make a great road trip listen. Maybe with your mom.

Get your copy of If I Knew Then today at one of these booksellers:

Get it on Apple Books
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.