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The Red Zone: A Love Story

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A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women. Chloe Caldwell's period has often felt inconvenient or uncomfortable or even painful, but it's A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women. Chloe Caldwell's period has often felt inconvenient or uncomfortable or even painful, but it's only once she’s in her thirties, as she's falling in love with Tony, a musician and single dad, that its effects on her mood start to dominate her life. Spurred by the intensity and seriousness of her new relationship, she soon realizes that her outbursts of anxiety and rage match her hormonal cycle. Compelled to understand the truth of what's happening to her every month, Chloe documents attitudes toward menstruation among her peers and family, reads Reddit threads about PMS, goes on antidepressants, goes off antidepressants, goes on antidepressants again, attends a conference called Break the Cycle, and learns about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, which helps her name what she’s been going through. For Chloe, healing isn’t just about finding the right diagnosis or a single cure. It means reflecting on other underlying patterns in her life: her feelings about her queer identity and writing persona in the context of a heterosexual relationship; how her parents’ divorce contributed to her issues with trust; and what it means to be a stepmother. The Red Zone is a funny, intimate, and revelatory memoir for anyone grappling with controversial medical diagnoses and labels of all kinds. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that, along with proper treatment, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and transcending shame are the ultimate keys to relief. It’s also about love: how challenging it can be, how it reveals your weaknesses and wounds, and how, if you allow it, it will push you to grow and change.


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A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women. Chloe Caldwell's period has often felt inconvenient or uncomfortable or even painful, but it's A searching, galvanizing memoir about blood and love: how learning more about her period, PMS, PMDD, and the effects of hormones on moods transformed her relationships—to a new partner, to family, to non-blood kin, and to her own body—from the beloved essayist and author of Women. Chloe Caldwell's period has often felt inconvenient or uncomfortable or even painful, but it's only once she’s in her thirties, as she's falling in love with Tony, a musician and single dad, that its effects on her mood start to dominate her life. Spurred by the intensity and seriousness of her new relationship, she soon realizes that her outbursts of anxiety and rage match her hormonal cycle. Compelled to understand the truth of what's happening to her every month, Chloe documents attitudes toward menstruation among her peers and family, reads Reddit threads about PMS, goes on antidepressants, goes off antidepressants, goes on antidepressants again, attends a conference called Break the Cycle, and learns about premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD, which helps her name what she’s been going through. For Chloe, healing isn’t just about finding the right diagnosis or a single cure. It means reflecting on other underlying patterns in her life: her feelings about her queer identity and writing persona in the context of a heterosexual relationship; how her parents’ divorce contributed to her issues with trust; and what it means to be a stepmother. The Red Zone is a funny, intimate, and revelatory memoir for anyone grappling with controversial medical diagnoses and labels of all kinds. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that, along with proper treatment, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and transcending shame are the ultimate keys to relief. It’s also about love: how challenging it can be, how it reveals your weaknesses and wounds, and how, if you allow it, it will push you to grow and change.

30 review for The Red Zone: A Love Story

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    THE RED ZONE: A Love Story by Chloe Caldwell is an amazing memoir! Chloe shares her experiences with her period, PMS and PMDD and how they affect her relationships. It was great to read about someone openly discussing their period and things like blood clots, going on prescription medication, and how her cycle affected her moods. I especially liked the section sharing stories of people’s first periods. It made me reminisce about getting my first period and how it changes as we age. It was touchi THE RED ZONE: A Love Story by Chloe Caldwell is an amazing memoir! Chloe shares her experiences with her period, PMS and PMDD and how they affect her relationships. It was great to read about someone openly discussing their period and things like blood clots, going on prescription medication, and how her cycle affected her moods. I especially liked the section sharing stories of people’s first periods. It made me reminisce about getting my first period and how it changes as we age. It was touching to read about Chloe’s relationship with her partner and how her new found love was so impactful in her life. I liked the humour and ease in this writing. It really felt like a friend was just chatting to you about her life and family. A really enjoyable read and I found myself super engaged in this book! I loved it! . Thank you to Soft Skull Press for my gifted review copy!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    For a book about periods, this was a really breezy read. I couldn't put it down. Felt like chatting with a friend. Lovely book! For a book about periods, this was a really breezy read. I couldn't put it down. Felt like chatting with a friend. Lovely book!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Martin

    Finally (finally!) someone wrote a book about struggling to understand your body and your heart and finding the answers on the internet. This book is moving, funny, and impossible to put down. Caldwell reveals the messiness of life in a way few writers can pull off.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura Lee

    In reading this, I expected to learn more about PMDD but found that the mood disorder for which this book is titled is more of a framework she uses to discuss the nuance of family (bio and chosen). PMDD symptoms being most triggered by interpersonal issues, it makes sense that Caldwell writes about her experience insofar as it relates to the people she cares about the most. Although I was expecting to learn more about PMDD, I was surprised (and delighted) to find I was perhaps reading a menstrua In reading this, I expected to learn more about PMDD but found that the mood disorder for which this book is titled is more of a framework she uses to discuss the nuance of family (bio and chosen). PMDD symptoms being most triggered by interpersonal issues, it makes sense that Caldwell writes about her experience insofar as it relates to the people she cares about the most. Although I was expecting to learn more about PMDD, I was surprised (and delighted) to find I was perhaps reading a menstrual version of Bluets by Maggie Nelson. I love Caldwell's writing style and I am continually awed by how much in common I have with her. I'll keep reading.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    MY GOD SHE’S DONE IT AGAIN

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    i feel like i have been waiting for a book like this since i started getting a period.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Carlin

    won’t be eagerly pressing this into people’s hands the way i did with Women circa 2015. that being said, really enjoyed / learned a lot / glad this exists. if i have a daughter i’ll give this to her. final comment: love to read a book that engages w the experience of starting one’s search for Truth on reddit.com.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I will read anything Chloe Caldwell publishes. Her writing is witty, clever, informative, & nuanced. This book takes a subject that isn't frequently talked about and makes it seem like it's the most prevalent thing in the world. Combining personal experience, factual tidbits, and other people's personal experiences, it gives the reader such a nuanced view of what it can mean to suffer from PMDD. It leaves you with something to think about, leaves you wanting to research and reflect on your own l I will read anything Chloe Caldwell publishes. Her writing is witty, clever, informative, & nuanced. This book takes a subject that isn't frequently talked about and makes it seem like it's the most prevalent thing in the world. Combining personal experience, factual tidbits, and other people's personal experiences, it gives the reader such a nuanced view of what it can mean to suffer from PMDD. It leaves you with something to think about, leaves you wanting to research and reflect on your own life. Even as someone who doesn't suffer from PMDD or other menstruation disorders, the book is relatable. I think anyone can love this book, whether you menstruate or not. It's not just a book about periods and PMDD but a personal account of what it means to deal with health problems, form relationships, and learn about your body. And it's definitely engaging.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Em

    I've been obsessed with Chloe Caldwell's writing since her first essay collection debuted in 2012, and my appreciation for her only grew while reading THE RED ZONE. This is a book for people who have periods and people who love people who have periods---that is to say, everyone. The first page made me burst out laughing; I read it aloud to several people. My favorite parts were about Caldwell's foray into deep and true love and the creation of her beautiful blended family. Her love for them radi I've been obsessed with Chloe Caldwell's writing since her first essay collection debuted in 2012, and my appreciation for her only grew while reading THE RED ZONE. This is a book for people who have periods and people who love people who have periods---that is to say, everyone. The first page made me burst out laughing; I read it aloud to several people. My favorite parts were about Caldwell's foray into deep and true love and the creation of her beautiful blended family. Her love for them radiated off the page. Caldwell doesn't shy away from the pain and difficulties PMDD has brought to her life, but her story is imbued with hope. (Thanks so much for the Soft Skull team for this ARC. Review cross posted from Edelweiss.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sunni C. | vanreads

    I really appreciated the candid discussion around menstruation and specifically premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in this book. Chloe Caldwell is an honest writer and I applaud her for taking on a topic that is not talked about enough. I think a lot of menstruating individuals would find solace in this book, particularly if you also experience menstruation disorders that affect your daily. I do think she also spends a lot of time talking about her relationships and unique family dynamics (t I really appreciated the candid discussion around menstruation and specifically premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in this book. Chloe Caldwell is an honest writer and I applaud her for taking on a topic that is not talked about enough. I think a lot of menstruating individuals would find solace in this book, particularly if you also experience menstruation disorders that affect your daily. I do think she also spends a lot of time talking about her relationships and unique family dynamics (think outside of the standard nuclear family). I don't think this book is quite marketed in that direction, but I think this aspect of it would be quite nice for people who are interested in reading the experiences of what it means to find and make your own family, in an unconventional sense. I do wish that she talked about other menstruation disorders as that was how I feel like this book was marketed, but perhaps that was my error in expectations.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carolee Wheeler

    3.5 stars. Caldwell writes about her struggle with PMDD and connects it to her relationships with given and chosen family. Hormones really affect one’s relationship to self; I’d love it if more menstruating people kept and shared such detailed notes about their cycle; I find it all fascinating. I don’t know how old she is but I dearly hope she gives as much or more attention to her perimenopause.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter Dyer

    review to come !

  13. 4 out of 5

    Swhite

    This book made me want to read for “fun” again. Which is saying something. Because many times I’m reading for information and self-improvement, ironically about PMDD which is central to this memoir. But it’s not grating or overwhrlming, like PMDD actually is. Chloe responds to the onset of this new moodiness iwith curiosity and self-reflection. This is really the key to her journey to making peace with the chaos it throws her into. I loved how at the same time this new diagnosis dawns on her she This book made me want to read for “fun” again. Which is saying something. Because many times I’m reading for information and self-improvement, ironically about PMDD which is central to this memoir. But it’s not grating or overwhrlming, like PMDD actually is. Chloe responds to the onset of this new moodiness iwith curiosity and self-reflection. This is really the key to her journey to making peace with the chaos it throws her into. I loved how at the same time this new diagnosis dawns on her she in faced with transformation in other areas of her life: a steady relationship, step-otherhood and writing this book. The Universe hands her this conundrum and she comes off conqueror; not by force but by doing her research, examining her history, bravely surrendering and meekly embracing. Chloe sets up her story very well in the first chapter. I laughed out loud, I nodded my head in empathy and I may have felt warm and fuzzy . Thank you Chloe Caldwell!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Isabella Arquilla

    I’m obsessed with all of Chloe Caldwell’s writing. I would have read this book regardless of what it was about, but of all things I’m glad she chose to write about periods. More than anything, this book made me feel empowered and unashamed about talking about my period. I grew up in a family that never talked about it. I remember my dad taking the trash out when I was younger and he saw in the trash a wrapper for one of my mom’s pads, and he was like “what the hell is this?” It wasn’t supposed t I’m obsessed with all of Chloe Caldwell’s writing. I would have read this book regardless of what it was about, but of all things I’m glad she chose to write about periods. More than anything, this book made me feel empowered and unashamed about talking about my period. I grew up in a family that never talked about it. I remember my dad taking the trash out when I was younger and he saw in the trash a wrapper for one of my mom’s pads, and he was like “what the hell is this?” It wasn’t supposed to be talked about it even though it encompassed so much of our reality for people who menstruate. Over the years, I’ve worked to overcome this shame I felt but it’s still there. This book has really opened the door for me to be able to talk about periods, as just a fact of life. When people ask me what I’ve read lately or what my favorite books are I’m able to bring this book up and start a conversation. When Chloe talks about how everyone who menstruates has a different reality every day because of where they are in their cycle, that felt validating, like even though I don’t have PMDD, I can reflect on my mood and my behavior in correlation with my cycle

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Weekman

    I looooove Chloe Caldwell's funny and relatable and emotional writing. She is one of the greats, truly, and I jumped at the chance to read this. The book follows the author's menstrual cycle and struggle to get a diagnosis of PMDD after years of doubt and shame. I enjoyed reading about the experiences of women outside of just Chloe, and I thought she did an excellent job conveying the importance of education and fighting for yourself. It was dystopian at times and will be eye-opening for anyone I looooove Chloe Caldwell's funny and relatable and emotional writing. She is one of the greats, truly, and I jumped at the chance to read this. The book follows the author's menstrual cycle and struggle to get a diagnosis of PMDD after years of doubt and shame. I enjoyed reading about the experiences of women outside of just Chloe, and I thought she did an excellent job conveying the importance of education and fighting for yourself. It was dystopian at times and will be eye-opening for anyone who doesn't struggle through their period. Not my favorite book of hers, but definitely loved and appreciated it. Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jana Fritz

    This book definitely hit home for me! It was enjoyable to read a book written by someone so open about their physical and mental health struggles exacerbated by PMDD. Period talk shouldn't be taboo, especially since that could be attributed to cis white hetero patriarchy. Would recommend to anyone— menstruators and non-menstruators alike. This book definitely hit home for me! It was enjoyable to read a book written by someone so open about their physical and mental health struggles exacerbated by PMDD. Period talk shouldn't be taboo, especially since that could be attributed to cis white hetero patriarchy. Would recommend to anyone— menstruators and non-menstruators alike.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    found myself photographing a lot of passages from this book

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This is such a brilliant book. Why aren’t their more memoirs about periods out there?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Camille Chainé

    chloe is one of my favorite autrices and this book reinforces that. a must read for all ladies and afab ❤️

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    In the late 1970's the esteemed poet and activist Ellen Bass gave a series of workshops titled "Writing About Our Lives". And we did exactly that: wrote about our lives, as they happened. Many prominent writers came out of the workshops. Chloe Caldwell has always written about her life. She's written about her relationships- mainly with woman. She's written about her travels, and about her own writing. She's written about her questions, and the answers that come to her, and those that don't. Her In the late 1970's the esteemed poet and activist Ellen Bass gave a series of workshops titled "Writing About Our Lives". And we did exactly that: wrote about our lives, as they happened. Many prominent writers came out of the workshops. Chloe Caldwell has always written about her life. She's written about her relationships- mainly with woman. She's written about her travels, and about her own writing. She's written about her questions, and the answers that come to her, and those that don't. Her writing is conversational and inclusive, as though you are right there with her. In her most recent book, she addresses two main topics: her heterosexual relationship and subsequent marriage (she is asked, early in her relationship with the man who was to become her husband, to be part of a magazine piece about Prominent Queer Writers), and her PMDD which has disrupted her hormones and thus her emotional and physical stability for decades. For those who have not experienced this severe form of Premenstrual Disorder, it is a compassionate and thorough education. For those women and/ or their loved ones who have, and/or have experienced minimization or dismission of symptoms from the medical community, this book is a validation of all. Caldwell addresses the humiliation, the shame, the courage, the conviction that is inherent in advocating for one's own health- physical and emotional well-being. Many thanks to the author and Soft Skull/Catapult for the ARC.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Roxy

    Period. The equivalent of saying Voldemort's name in society. Caldwell does an amazing job breaking down the stigmas surrounding periods and discussing important topics that no one seems to discuss, even medical professionals. The book flows effortlessly between her personal experiences with her period, PMDD, and how it interferes with her relationship while sharing other people's experiences with their first period, stigmas, ignorance, learning to use a tampon, etc. This book is relatable for all Period. The equivalent of saying Voldemort's name in society. Caldwell does an amazing job breaking down the stigmas surrounding periods and discussing important topics that no one seems to discuss, even medical professionals. The book flows effortlessly between her personal experiences with her period, PMDD, and how it interferes with her relationship while sharing other people's experiences with their first period, stigmas, ignorance, learning to use a tampon, etc. This book is relatable for all women and a must read for men who need to understand more about mensuration. It is a topic misunderstood and unexplored. Caldwell's experiences reminds readers they are not alone and shares her coping skills. She also shares intimate conversations with her friends, family, and therapist which allows the reader to truly understand the battle, even if they never had a period in their life. All this to say: a must read for everyone. An amazing memoir that I devoured in a few hours but has now changed my entire perspective of my monthly visitor.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Downward

    I picked up this book as a fan of Chloe Caldwell and with no knowledge of its content. I feel relatively comfortable saying that I'm not the intended demographic, but something about that and about stumbling on this with no prior content knowledge maybe enhanced the experience to me, which gave me a chance to learn and empathize with people who menstruate, and the continuing havoc that that can cause to your body and mind, as well as the many ways that - in particular - people with PMDD and the I picked up this book as a fan of Chloe Caldwell and with no knowledge of its content. I feel relatively comfortable saying that I'm not the intended demographic, but something about that and about stumbling on this with no prior content knowledge maybe enhanced the experience to me, which gave me a chance to learn and empathize with people who menstruate, and the continuing havoc that that can cause to your body and mind, as well as the many ways that - in particular - people with PMDD and the people who love them can mitigate this biological unfairness through exploring it openly, which is probably a roadmap to creating a more empathetic world, beyond even this particular topic. because this is a topic I was /basically/ unfamiliar with, it felt MORE important, because it seems like a topic EVERYONE should be familiar with, since it impacts such a huge percentage of people who inhabit the same world as me, you, everyone.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shilo

    This book of essays chronicles one woman's experience with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, from the first troubling signs, through all the classic cycles of grief, and on into healing which is, like grief & for all whose lives are thrown upside down by chronic conditions, cyclical and unending. This was such a brilliant read and I think everyone with a uterus should go out and buy a copy. Reading it during all this scotus bullshit was actually uplifting, to read a woman so openly owning her own This book of essays chronicles one woman's experience with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, from the first troubling signs, through all the classic cycles of grief, and on into healing which is, like grief & for all whose lives are thrown upside down by chronic conditions, cyclical and unending. This was such a brilliant read and I think everyone with a uterus should go out and buy a copy. Reading it during all this scotus bullshit was actually uplifting, to read a woman so openly owning her own rage and experience with something that is thought of, STILL, as taboo to talk about. I loved Caldwell's book Women & loved this as well, so it's probably time to purchase her other two books, cause I can bet I'm going to love them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jaime Wright

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elise

  27. 5 out of 5

    CW

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  30. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine Parsons

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