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Bitter or Better

Grappling with Life on the Op-Ed Page

Caryn Sullivan

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  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.50" x 8.50"
  • ISBN: 978-0-9835887-6-4
  • Publication Date: 2015-06-23
  • RockPaperStar Press

Availability: In stock

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Paperback$20.00

Bitter or Better

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Well acquainted with family drama and adversity since childhood, newspaper columnist Caryn Sullivan continued to encounter an overlapping string of family crises with a stoic resolve that left her in an emotional cocoon.

A few months after joining what she called the “freakin’ widows club” in 2009, she met a priest at a social function and unloaded her grief, seeking answers. Sullivan embraced his life-changing advice: “In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better.” His message became the theme in many columns she wrote about kindred spirits: Bret Baier, Vince Flynn, Temple Grandin, Lee and Bob Woodruff, and more. Encouraged by bestselling author Vince Flynn’s generous assessment of her lyrical writing style, Sullivan has woven together her own personal experiences as a life crisis survivor with those of the people behind many columns she wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press opinion page.

By sharing stories of those who faced adversity and went on to do remarkable things, Sullivan discovers the healing power of both words and action.


You're reviewing: Bitter or Better

“Caryn is a gifted writer whose words gracefully enter your soul with class and comfort. We all have a story, and Caryn guides us to look deep into our own lives and the lives of other fascinating people.” —Kevin Warren, COO, Minnesota Vikings Football, LLC


“Caryn’s easy-to read storytelling grabs you. Bitter or Better is a relatable and challenging book that ignites self-analysis as you follow along from one story to the next.” —Sona Mehring, founder and CEO, CaringBridge


“Caryn Sullivan reminds us that, whether it is a frustration in a day-to-day activity or a life-altering event, we have a choice in how we handle the situation. Are we bitter from the event, or have we made the choice to be better from the experience? As a cancer survivor, it’s easy to ask, why me? and quickly spiral down. The real courage comes from becoming better from the experience.” —Amy Ronneberg, CFO, Be the Match


“By sharing her story, Caryn Sullivan heroically teaches us the most important lesson we need to know: Life is a choice. Every day. Caryn listens with her heart. Her book is about what really matters: caring and sharing your heart with others. There is no greater gift or message in life.” —Tani Austin, cofounder, Starkey Hearing Foundation


“Caryn Sullivan shares a very real and personal journey that will be familiar to all parents who learn to come to terms with the altered expectations of a child with a disability. I hope that parents who struggle with their child’s new diagnosis of autism, or other challenge, will find her story helpful, and that they, too, will ultimately discover the beauty in their own child’s different way of interpreting and navigating our world.” —Jonah Weinberg, executive director, Autism Society of Minnesota


“Caryn’s candid writing helps others understand experiences many of us in the autism community share by carefully illustrating the real challenges our loved ones with autism face. Her stories of those who are triumphant in the face of challenge give hope and inspiration to many who are looking for answers.” —Peg Schneeman Reagan, parent of child with autism.


Bitter or Better teaches us that adversity and relentless crises can change us from a student of life to a teacher of life.” —Diane S. Cross, president and CEO, Fraser


“As a longtime fan of Caryn Sullivan’s newspaper columns, I was delighted to see some of her most compelling stories in Bitter or Better. Her personal portrayal of developing resiliency and wisdom in response to adversity is especially enlightening and insightful.” —Mary Treacy O’Keefe, author of Meant-to-Be Moments: Discovering What We are Called to Do and Be


“You will laugh and cry with Caryn Sullivan’s beautifully articulated story of tenacity, resilience, and life’s often-bitter curve balls. It is easy to forget we all have feelings, failures, triumphs, and regrets. Told from many perspectives, Bitter or Better teaches us valuable life lessons. This is a must-read.” —Daniel Saltzman, MD, PhD, chief of Pediatric Surgery, University of Minnesota


Bitter or Better explores the meaning of life and how the deep scarring of abundant loss can ultimately steer us toward great life discovery. The author shares tears of sadness, and remarkable reflection lending to gentle laughter. A must read!” —Janina Wresh, Law Enforcement educator, former police officer

Caryn Sullivan

Caryn Sullivan earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the University of Utah and a law degree from William Mitchell College of law. She has been a contributing columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press since 2007. She was honored with the ARC of Minnesota Community Media Excellence Award. A family crisis survivor, she  shares her insights about dealing with life’s challenges as a speaker and writer. Her columns and blog posts appear at carynmsullivan.