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Book review: Sandberg wants to change the conversation about death

<p>This cover image released by Alfred A. Knopf shows "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy," by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. (Alfred A. Knopf via AP)</p>

This cover image released by Alfred A. Knopf shows "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy," by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. (Alfred A. Knopf via AP)

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Two years ago, her husband died while on vacation with her.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:01 am

“Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” (Alfred A. Knopf), by Sheryl SandbergOn their last day together, the Silicon Valley elite couple Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg were sunbathing and playing the popular strategy board game The Settlers of Catan on the iPad.

It was May 2015, and they were vacationing at a $12,750-a-night Four Seasons resort in a secluded part of Mexico with close friends. All seemed right in their world. But soon an abrupt and devastating event punctuated their love story and 11-year marriage. Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey, went to the hotel gym and never returned. After a few hours, Sandberg, who is second in command at Facebook and wrote the wildly successful business book “Lean In,” set out to look for her husband and found him lying next to an exercise machine with a pool of blood around his head. At age 47, Goldberg’s heart had stopped.

Goldberg’s death made headlines around the globe, and Sandberg was left to pick up the pieces for their two young children. Despite being one of the most famous women in the world, Sandberg found herself isolated after her husband’s death. Friends avoided the subject or asked superficial questions like, “How are you?”

“I felt invisible, as if I was standing in front of them but they couldn’t see me,” Sandberg writes. Goldberg’s death was now the elephant in the room.

Two years later, Sandberg has teamed up with Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to write “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.”

With “Option B,” Sandberg wants to change the conversation about death.

The book is part memoir, rehashing Sandberg’s painful and raw account of losing her husband, and part research. Anyone who has experienced a loss of similar magnitude will recognize their own emotions when Sandberg recounts what happens after Goldberg’s death — surprise, anger, pain, isolation and loneliness.

“Option B” is a call to have forthright conversations in these hard times instead of the pleasantries exchanged after a tragedy occurs. What’s the point of asking a grieving person “How are you?” anyway?

Early in the book, Sandberg quotes Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in saying, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” ‘‘Option B” is about living forward but looking backward when necessary.

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