The upcoming memoir from Rachel Krantz, Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy is raw and sometimes raunchy. It’s also a tale about control and gaslighting in relationships. As the memoir opens, Krantz is a twenty-something writer who doesn’t think like a monogamous woman. Her journey into the world of alternate sexual options is eye-opening and vulnerable.
Krantz tells her story through several means. Sometimes she shares diary entries or transcripts of recorded conversations. Other times, she tells stories of events she experienced. Throughout it all, she intersperses research, both primary and secondary, into the mindset of various types of relationships.
Her perspective is that monogamy is a patriarchal construct, subtly designed to hold women down. Ironically, the first intentionally non-monogamous relationship she enters is with Adam, a man who is both controlling and patriarchal. She actually calls him “Daddy” on occasion and he calls her “my little girl.” Still, the most compelling part of her memoir is the meandering journey she takes while determining if he’s the right man for her.
She lives under Adam’s thumb for quite some time. At first, he seems caring and nurturing. But the more time she spends with him, the more she removes other friends from her life. At the same time, she struggles to live up to his “expectations.” The nature of an open, non-monogamous relationship complicates his antithetical need for control. Meanwhile, Krantz struggles with jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. Adam doesn’t do anything to make her feel more secure.
And as her research and writing work offers Krantz the opportunity to see other non-monogamous relationships in action, she realizes Adam regularly gaslights her. This concept is new to her, so she explains it in detail here, which is helpful.
Yes, this memoir has plenty of openly sexual writing, description, and dialogue. But it serves an important end beyond any sense of titillation. Polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships deserve a legitimate exploration. And Krantz shares both her personal experience and her subjective research. Together these aspects blend into a compulsively readable memoir.
I believe that Krantz genuinely desires a mentally and emotionally healthy life while also being non-monogamous. However, achieving that is considerably more complicated than she expected. This is the crux of what makes Open a complex memoir. Krantz draws us in early to her process. We watch her understand non-monogamy, explore a potentially long-term relationship, and mature into a fully functioning adult. Each piece of this experience needs the other to be completely realized.
I picked this up because of how polyamory figures in a few of my favorite fictional series. I also know two couples who’ve explored the boundaries of non-monogamy, with varying degrees of success. Krantz delivered what I hoped for: a realistic, nonfiction exposition of the lifestyle with advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re curious about the non-monogamous lifestyle, this is a valuable tool for understanding its ups and downs. Krantz is honest, self-effacing, and ultimately presents important explorations.
Pair with Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne, because it explains patriarchy like nothing else. Alternately, try Living an Orgasmic Life: Heal Yourself and Awaken Your Pleasure by Xanet Pailet because it also focuses on sexual empowerment.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Rodale Inc. / Harmony, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The anticipated publication date is January 25, 2022.