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This is a place for anyone who has felt the loss of a child. Treat this as a communication haven regardless of how or when you felt your loss. My definition of loss: miscarriage at any stage, still birth regardless of week gestation, infant death at any month, and loss of a child even if your child was all grown up. For me they all hold the same root of devestation. None are more profound or more "easily" dealt with than another.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Backsplash - A Review of all kinds

It is great when something makes a splash - literally or figuratively.

A rock breaks the surface plunging into the water, but our eyes watch the ripples to see how far back the splash will go.

A child dives into the water for the first time and we focus on how deep they will submerge before they appear again.

A movie takes the nation by storm and we 'fall in love' with the lead actor, researching his early films when we were none-the-wiser to the fame that would become him.

We happen upon a blog we've never been to before, perhaps via this oh-so-useful-monthly-portal called ILCW, and are struck by the post in front of us. We could have written those words. We feel an instant connection to the author of the site and, go back - into the archives, reading, searching, devouring what they did, 'before'.

And then, there are books. If I made it my life's goal to read every book ever published - I would fall short, not by lack of motivation - but our restrictor - time. If, however a book makes that perfect splash, I find myself asking, What came before this? What other literary works came from this person's head and travelled to the page for me to read?

Elizabeth McCracken's most recent book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination made that splash. There was the O-magazine excerpt, the major publishing house backing the book, the Exhale interview, and - of course - the cover, with its small, capitalized letters running across the top; BY THE AUTHOR OF THE GIANT'S HOUSE.

Every time I opened that book, and believe me I have done so too many times to count, I saw that phrase, and found myself intruiged. What came before this? What kind of words poured from her before the tragic death of her Pudding? And so, I checked it out of the library.

It is a novel - fiction based on real life experience as her many years with the title, Librarian. It is fantastical, over-the-top, and filled with that astounding way she writes that can simultaneously draw me in to the story line and cause me to re-read with the sole purpose of marveling the arcitechual design of the writing itself.

Of course, there is loss - death I mean. What story doesn't have it, in some form, in some permeation? And the main character is lost, really - and so the underlying ripple throughout the whole book is her grief of lost, never-to-be-achieved possibilities. But then, there was this passage:

"I believed then that the thought James is dead would be the key that swung open my heart and then broke off in the lock. It would ruin me. I believed I was making a choice. I could carry on, I could do my work and think of him and iron my clothes in the morning; or I could become so wrecked by grief that I wandered the streets, my fingers stuck in my hair and my hair struck in my mouth, strangers running from me as I said, wait a minute, I only want to tell you about somebody. I thought these were the only two paths before me, that they diverged so wildly that, as I stepped onto the sensible ordered path, my lifelong choice, I would not see or think of the other path again; it would lead to another neighborhood entirely. I did not know that walking on one, I would be always in sight of the other; that they crossed one another sooner rather than later; and then crossed each other, again and again."

It strikes me that if you substitute the name Pudding for James, the intent of the paragraph still stands. In fact, I believe you could insert any of our lost baby's names: Emma, Hope, Charlotte, Andrew, Michael, Christopher, the comprehensive list of names at the Wall of Angels even, and it would read perfectly.

But more than that - it strikes me, to the very core, that she - in her character development, in her study of and readings of grief, was able to embody that perceived fork in the road we all face after the death of a true love.

I'm just stricken by this woman and her writing, her depth and emotion - both pre and post Pudding. This is what I hope for as I write. That my words can be so authentic, so real and true as they travel from my heart to my head, down the muscles of my arms and pour out of my tapping fingertips; that they speak to the reader, Yes - I've sat where you sit, Yes - I've cried oceans of tears, Yes - I can smile and even laugh again, and Yes - life as we know it will never be the same.

There are more books in her backsplash - I'll be checking one out today.


Kristin said...

What an outstanding review of her work. I was floored by the power of An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination. I guess I'm going to need to look up some of her other books.

Martha@A Sense of Humor is Essential said...

Thank you for the great review.
I have to check out some of her books soon.

nancy said...

I just spent quite awhile, looking at every single angel on the wall. And doing as you asked, taking in their name, along with the parents they left behind for now. The wall is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your supportive comment. I think that he found the blog and things have escalated. I am safe. I will let you know when I have a chance to set up a new blog.

Beautiful Mess said...

What a beautiful review. I haven't read the book, but you're making me feel so at peace with the thought of reading it. I was really scared to read it. It's hard to read about death, for me. Thank you for writing this!

Dalene said...

Funny, I've thought about finding and reading her other books, too. I was so floored by An Exact Replica. It was exactly what I needed.

AnotherDreamer said...

I loved this post. Excellent review, and excellent observation of the books impact.

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