Opening Heaven’s Door

Opening Heaven's Door book coverPeople everywhere carry with them extraordinary, deeply comforting experiences that arrived at the moment when they most needed relief: when they lost a loved one. These experiences can include clear messages from beyond, profound and vividly beautiful visions, mysterious connections and spiritual awareness, foreknowledge of a loved one’s passing—all of which evade explanation by science and logic. Most people keep these transcendent experiences secret—deathbed experiences, Nearing Death Awareness, and shared death experiences. Individuals and families guard them for fear they will be discounted by hyperrational scrutiny. Yet these very common occurrences have the power to console, comfort, and even transform our understanding of life and death. – See more at:

Praise for Opening Heaven’s Door

“This remarkable new book by Patricia Pearson is a rare thing: bringing journalistic rigour to an impossible question…. The book succeeds so well because it favours questions over answers, humility over certainty, and (when called for) crunchy ice-breaking humour over earnestness. But mostly it succeeds because of its unabashed concern with love, as it’s experienced not just by those at heaven’s door, but by the human tribe that’s inevitably left behind when someone dies. Love, too, is a mystery that changes us.” —Tom Jokinen, The Globe and Mail

“Readers will be humbled and filled with a sense of hope rather than fear as they realize that the deaths of loved ones, or even their own deaths, are not losses, but simply transitions. A fascinating and candid analysis of the process of dying.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Your life is over the moment you die. So I used to believe, with something like religious fervor. And then I read Opening Heaven’s Door, and such is the power and art, the passion and rigor of Patricia Pearson’s writing that I’m not nearly so sure of myself. This is a splendid book in all the ways a book can be splendid. It is a book to be read and re-read and urged upon friends.” – Barbara Gowdy, author of We So Seldom Look on Love, and Helpless

“Pearson has brought us something rare: a unique blend of gifted storytelling combined with exhaustive scientific research about dying, grief, and spiritual connectivity. Opening Heaven’s Door leaves us enthralled that death’s mystery may be life’s solution.” — Allan J. Hamilton, MD, author of The Scalpel and the Soul

“On the night of my father’s death,” said the author’s sister at his memorial service, “I had an extraordinary spiritual experience.” How can you put down a book that begins like that? Hardheaded and openhearted, Pearson has brought together riveting accounts of near-death experiences that will shake your assumptions about where life ends, and what death means. For seekers and skeptics alike, “Opening Heaven’s Door” is profoundly comforting, questing, and wise.” – Marni Jackson, author of Pain, the Fifth Vital Sign

“In this compelling and provoking read, Patricia Pearson examines death and dying with uncommon thoughtfulness, asking questions too rarely asked. Moving and insightful, Opening Heaven’s Door is an important work for all of us struggling with the inevitably of death.” — Steven Galloway, author of The Confabulist and The Cellist of Sarajevo

Opening Heaven’s Door is also available in Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Romania and Poland.

You can read an excerpt here.


A Brief History of Anxiety—Yours & Mine

A Brief History of Anxiety - cover imageThe millions of North Americans who silently cope with anxiety at last have a witty, articulate champion in Patricia Pearson, who shows that the anxious are hardly “nervous nellies” with “weak characters” who just need medicine and a pat on the head. Instead, Pearson questions what it is about twenty-first century American culture that is making people anxious, and offers some surprising answers—as well as some inspiring solutions based on her own fierce battle to drive the beast away.

Drawing on personal episodes of incapacitating dread as a vivid, often hilarious guide to her quest to understand this most ancient of human emotions, Pearson delves into the history and geography of anxiety. Why are North Americans so much more likely to suffer than Latin Americans? Why did Darwin treat hypochondria with sprays from a hose? Why have we forgotten the insights of some of our greatest philosophers, theologians, and psychologists in favor of prescribing addictive drugs? In this blend of fascinating reportage and poignant memoir, Pearson ends with her struggle to withdraw from antidepressants and to find more self-aware and philosophically-grounded ways to strengthen the soul.

What people are saying about A Brief History

“A genre-busting page turner: a portrait of Pearson’s lifelong struggle with anxiety, melded with a journalistic investigation of what ails her, and me and us.” — Salon

“Pearson is a daredevil on the page; her prose somersaults and vaults, does splits and juggles, keeping the reader entertained by her wit and amazed by her dexterity as an investigative journalist.” — Newsday

“Pearson examine[s] modern civilization and its discontents, as well as her own miseries, thoughtfully and incisively. Major points for wit and flair.” — New York Times

“Exhilarating. Finely crafted. Pearson makes plenty of intriguing and arguable observations. If you’re anxious all the time and you think about that anxiety a lot, this collection will provide you some companionable relief.” — Slate

“[Pearson] offers readers a learned hand through the fraught world of anxiety politics…this book offers the anxious reader a recipe, one that is sure to quiet.” — Miami Herald

“Pithy, revealing, often funny, and highly intelligent…hothouse flowers like me will find themselves nodding vehemently, underlining passages, reading parts aloud to loved ones, even finding comfort and calm in Pearson’s deeply penetrating view into our version of the human condition.” — Elle magazine

Pre-publication reviews of A Brief History

“If only more psychology were written with the literate intelligence of this book. It is a weaving of stories that accomplishes a great deal: cultural analysis, psychological insight, and personal reflection. You will enjoy it and learn from it. If you are ever afraid of the dark, crowds of people, heights, and the insanity of your fellow humans, as I am, you may find comfort here.”
— Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul and A Life’s Work

“In this meditation on anxiety, shot through with bright insights and shafts of illumination, Pearson has subtly interwoven her personal story with the history of anxiety in a manner that left me revisiting both the book and my memories of it long after I had finished. A Brief History deftly conveys a sense of where we have come to, offers succour to anyone afflicted with nerves, and may yet take a place beside some of the cultural landmarks in the field.”
— Dr. David Healy, author of Let Them Eat Prozac and The Anti-Depressant Era

“A beautifully sustained riff on the link between our beliefs and our symptoms. The world is inscribing us with anxiety and Pearson—sensitive, eloquent, and very funny—is the perfect palimpsest. Captivating, thought-provoking and filled with original scholarship.”
— Jeff Warren, author of The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness

“A bubble bath of a book to lift your spirits and make you laugh. Pearson’s wry and illuminating insights into this modern state of mind are better medicine than Effexor.”
— Marni Jackson, author of The Mother Zone and Pain: The Science and Culture of Why we Hurt

A Brief History of Anxiety is published by Random House in Canada and Bloomsbury in the US.

Editions forthcoming in China, Taiwan, Spain and Mexico.


Area Woman Blows Gasket —
and other tales from the domestic frontier

Area Woman Blows GasketArea Women Unite! In this sharp and sophisticated collection of essays, columnist Patricia Pearson takes us on a hilarious tour of our twenty-first-century obsessions and distractions.

Patricia Pearson is a working woman, wife, and mother on the verge. Whether it’s being humiliated by the “Beauty Bullies” at the Lancome counter or failing to live up to the “Serene Mother” ideal, Pearson has had enough of negotiating our present-day myths and fads. In fact, she’s formed a few opinions on the matter and can’t wait to share them with you.

In Area Woman Blows Gasket, Pearson plumbs every facet of modern life, marriage, and motherhood, from choosing the right vegan-bran-hemp diet for your family to confronting your husband’s irrational fear of mayonnaise to finding a way to return to work and not turn your child into a contract killer. Adult education classes, therapy, $100 haircuts, the latest news on what causes cancer, Christmas shopping—all come into sharp focus with the help of Pearson’s comic eye. Her wry brand of wisdom is a refreshing and long-awaited release from our confusing and often contradictory world.

Highly amusing.” – New York Times

Screamingly hilarious.” – Los Angeles Times

The funniest comic writing in a decade.”

Pearson is the Mark Twain of moms.” – Maclean’s

“Patricia Pearson was born with that infra-X-ray-spectroscop-ic quirk of vision that sees behind life’s facades and into the true nature of things — things like just how surreal real life can be. Luckily for us, her strange powers are tuned to the Hilarity setting; she copes with life by laughing at it, and you’ll laugh along with her on every page of this smart, irreverent, and best of all funny, funny book.”
– Bruce McCall

Area Woman Blows Gasket is published by Random House Canada and BloomsburyUSA


Playing House

Playing House - cover imageShort-listed for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, 2004

Adapted for television in 2007

Before there was “Knocked Up” and “Baby Mama,” there was some excellent satirical writing about unexpected parenthood. Ahem..

“You don’t find the one, do you?” our heroine in this deft comic novel muses. “The best one, the Perfect One. You just keep running like Wile E. Coyote, until all of a sudden you’re off the cliff. You fall into your life with the man who is running beside you.”

Playing House is a witty, searching look at falling by accident into life’s most profound commitment. Patricia Pearson has deftly captured the self-doubt, messy bodily fluids and inconceivable love that accompany being a mother, and the trepidation and joy with which two people step across the threshold of parenthood and into a realm that is at once alien and completely right.

Praise for Playing House

“A fresh and lively romp…will leave you lusting for more.” – Toronto Star

“Like Anne Lamott, Patricia Pearson writes about life, love, dating, and unexpected motherhood, with humor, anger, and ultimately, forgiveness. This book has an irreverent sadness, but it’s tinged with a kind of real joy people never want to talk about, especially when life takes that sometimes ridiculous, totally uncalled for, turn.”
— Lisa Gabriele, author of Tempting Faith DiNapoli

“Playing House is charming, delightful, laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving. The heroine, Frannie, is as quirkily real as your best girlfriend. Every detail of this novel captures the universal plights and joys of parenting, and yet is achingly specific to Frannie and her new family. It’s a love story for real people-people who understand that “happily ever after” must be taken one day at a time.”
— Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Beach Club, Nantucket Nights, and Summer People

“I felt as if I had been entertained at a dinner…where I had grabbed the arms of my dinner mates on either side, mothers all, to keep myself from falling off my chair in laughter.”
– Globe & Mail


Believe Me
— How curious can a five-year-old really be?

Believe Me - cover imageFrannie and Calvin are back, and even more baffled, in this hilarious and heartwarming sequel to Patricia Pearson’s critically acclaimed comic novel, Playing House.

Frannie Mackenzie thought she finally had her life on track. Even though she backed into love and parenthood — getting pregnant before she even knew how to spell her lover Calvin’s last name (P-U-D-D-I-E) — the birth of baby Lester seemed to put everything in the right order at last. Ha! When her mother-in-law, Bernice, takes theatrically to her death bed and Calvin can’t deal, Frannie has to step up to the next big challenge: what to make of mortality when you’re pretty sure there’s no afterlife. And Lester, at five, knows just how to test his mother’s verbal and spiritual limits. Spotting a crucifix in a local church, Lester inquires, “What happened to that guy?”

There’s certainly no lack of absolutists in Frannie’s life: an atheist scientist bent on disproving God, a near-death experiencer, a suburban shaman, and the whole neo-con coterie of magazine editors at The Moral Volcano who pay her salary. But when it comes down to surveying the landscape of their own beliefs, Frannie and Calvin find that a dying woman and a growing child offer the most lasting lessons on life and faith.

“Pearson’s wit is in fine form throughout. As are her observations about everything from the quirks of small-town life to the daily rhythms of motherhood. Most importantly, Believe Me captures the persistence of our childlike wonder at the world. Is there anything larger than us? Why is there pain? What happens when we die? Whether we answer these questions or not, Pearson’s novel suggests that grappling with them helps us define what matters.”
– Quill & Quire

Believe Me is published by Random House Canada.

When She Was Bad — How and Why Women get Away With Murder
Available from

When She Was Bad - book coverWhy do some women murder their children? Why do others team up with men in ghoulish killing sprees? What motivates the female serial killer? When She Was Bad explores the enigmatic heart of female darkness, drawing into focus such fascinating characters as Dorothea Puente, who murdered several elderly tenants in her boarding house in Sacramento; Mary Beth Tinning, who killed eight of her children in upstate New York; Karla Homolka, who joined forces with Paul Bernardo to abduct, rape and murder school girls in southern Ontario; and Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Christian who was recently executed in Texas for having killed two people with a pickax.

“A compelling, frightening look at women, not as victims of violence, but as perpetrators of it…gripping, controversial material.”
— Kirkus, starred review

“Effectively cremates the myth of innate female innocence by parading a violent chain gain of gals gone wrong…Compelling.”
— Vanity Fair.

“Punchily written…fascinating reading.”
— London Times

— Women’s Review of Books

— Glamour

“Pearson is a good reporter who has done the research to back up her most inflammatory claims.”
— The New Yorker

Available from | ISBN 0140243887 | Penguin Books


Patricia’s writing has been anthologized in The Penguin Anthology of Canadian Humour, Dropped Threads: Beyond the Small Circle, To Arrive Where You Are, published by The Banff Centre Press, and The Art of Writing, 6th Edition