Blog, Book Reviews

Book Review: Open by Rachel Krantz


Blue book cover for Open by Rachel Krantz

CW: Abuse

Rachel Krantz’s memoir Open could not be any more of just that. Subtitled “An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy,” Open is filled with vulnerable moments across the emotional and physical spectrums as Rachel Krantz details her beginning explorations of non-monogamy and polyamory. Along the way, she comes into her queerness, interrogates the patriarchy, and meets a cast of brilliant and compassionate characters that you just want to keep hanging out with.

The book opens with Rachel learning that Adam, the new guy she’s seeing, is non-monogamous. Rachel is curious about non-monogamy and polyamory, so she decides to take on the journey and all of its ups and downs. As Adam turns out to be a less-than-ideal partner, Rachel struggles with everything from jealousy and self-esteem to gaslighting and abuse. Thankfully, she meets other partners and friends in the polyamory and non-monogamy communities who lend their support, wisdom and perspective as she grapples with the tensions between the relationship she’s in and the life she wants to have.  

Open is uniquely informed by Krantz’s background as a journalist (she was a founding editor of Bustle and an award-winning investigative reporter with YR Media, among many other titles). As she explains in the opening Author’s Note: “I obsessively documented my first non-monogamous and Dom/sub relationships. I’m talking not just journal entries, but hours and hours, days and days of audio recordings.” The memoir—which is divided into five parts for ages 27-31—is therefore supported by the primary sources of text messages, diary entries, recorded therapy sessions, recorded conversations with partners and friends, and interviews with sex researchers and psychologists. Footnotes throughout the book serve as a welcome bibliography of resources for readers who want to keep learning (and un-learning).

Krantz even gifts the reader with a couple of “Drugged Disney Transcripts” of her and a friend chatting their way through problematic Disney love stories. The Disney fairytale theme recurs throughout the book as Rachel grapples with the lessons she’s consumed from these movies about how to be a woman and how to think about relationships. It often pops up in humorous ways, like when Rachel is excited about the prospect of a new woman in her life: “Perhaps she is the one! Lumière the candlestick’s French accent exclaimed in my mind. The one to break the spell!” 

Ultimately, Open is a beautiful, un-put-downable read about finding strength and empowerment in and outside of any kind of relationships. It’s also a reflection on patriarchal influence on relationships that draws important attention to the harassment, discrimination and stigma that non-monogamous people often face.

For readers new to the topic of non-monogamy (or, for that matter, the topics of Daddy Doms, hotwifing, cuckolding, swingers, sex parties, and more) it’s the perfect starting point—because what safer way is there to explore something new than through a book? As Krantz writes: “True strength lies in a willingness to do the work of disentangling. And it is often spotted in the gentlest of gestures. Leaning in to listen, taking a deep breath, rolling up one’s sleeves.”

Lillie Gardner is a writer of prose and screenplays in St. Paul, Minnesota. She loves literary fiction and memoir—both to read and to write—and is particularly excited about quirky Midwestern stories and women's history. When she's not writing or reading, she's usually teaching piano, taking her cat Ava Gardner for a stroll or chasing after the newest vegan eats in the Twin Cities.

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