Writers on Goodbye

I had plans to blog today about a book-to-film article I read that I wanted to share following up on my post from last week. But then, on Monday, I heard the terrible news that my client, Jennifer Perillo’s, husband died suddenly at just 51 leaving behind Jennie and their two daughters, ages 8 and 3. I was so shocked and saddened by this news that it’s really taken over all my thoughts since. And just yesterday I learned that my 79-year-old cousin passed away after a long battle with cancer, so I’m thinking a lot about death and its effects on those left behind.

Many members of the food and blogging community have come together to support Jennie, who is loved by everyone who knows her. I initially met Jennie through another client, Shauna James Ahern of glutenfreegirl.com, who wrote such a beautiful piece about Jennie, her husband, writing, and community, that I felt compelled to share it with you all.

All of this made me wonder about writers and what motivates them during times of sadness. Writers who write personally, through blogging or memoirs, in particular. When something wonderful happens, they generally want to write about it. And when something tragic happens, same. Writers write. It’s what they do, and it’s to our benefit when someone with the uncanny ability to articulate in just the right ways what a painful situation feels like, looks like, and sounds like shares with us those feelings and experiences, and in a way that makes it relatable to the reader. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking comes to mind. It’s about the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the simultaneous severe illness of their only daughter. And Elizabeth McCracken’s An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is another great example. This is also a memoir, about the loss of a pregnancy in its ninth month, a reflective and poignant look at a different, but no less painful, sort of grief.

I wonder if you have any favorite memoirs about loss. I’m not sure I actually want to read them right now given my state of mind, but I do appreciate the comfort that other people’s experiences can have on our own.

8 Responses to Writers on Goodbye

  1. christi says:

    I don’t read memoirs like that or I’d bawl like a baby all the time. A very poignant song, however, is ‘What Sarah Said’ by Death Cab for Cutie. In case you are unfamiliar with the song:


    It helped me through my own loss.

  2. marisa says:

    Elizabeth McCracken’s book is one of my favorites because I also had a 9 month stillborn. Anne Lamott is always like reading a letter from your best friend and Carole Radziwill was very poignant in What Remains. The idea that the man you hug in the morning could be gone at night is a reminder that maybe the constant boob-grabbing isn’t so annoying after all. Okay. It is. But I wouldn’t trade it.

  3. I admittedly don’t read many of this type of book, but Jim Beaver’s book LIFE’S THAT WAY was an amazing book about his wife’s diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer, their struggle with the disease, and her death in too short a time.

  4. It’s not a book, but Aleksandar Hemon’s searing article in _The New Yorker_ — “The Aquarium: A child’s isolating illness” — was “mercilessly open-eyed” (am I allowed to quote my own blog posts here?) about his infant daughter’s fatal illness and what it taught him about life and about language. If you didn’t read it, run don’t walk. And brace yourself.

  5. Kim says:

    This comes in a week when a friend lost her beloved husband to lung cancer. I’m going to his wake this afternoon. While I can’t think of a book that fits the request, reading the blog posts one after the other, clicking down from one layer of pain to the next, then seeing that video–I’m moved by how the grief of one woman’s loss, a woman I don’t know, who lives in a place hundreds of miles away can come so close. Almost unbearably sad.

  6. Teri Carter says:

    My latest favorite read was THE MEMORY PALACE by Mira Bartok. It’s one of the smartest memoirs I’ve come across in a long long time. I’m a Mary Karr fan all across the board. And one memoir that no one really talks about is Rick Bragg’s ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’ which is no less than spectacular, a love story really to his native south, and when he wins the Pulitzer and takes his mother to the ceremony, you can hardly take it.

    Beautiful, poetic writing, all.

  7. Stacey says:

    Thank you all so much for the great suggestions. Another book comes to mind that is very special: Ann Patchett’s TRUTH & BEAUTY about the author’s relationship with the talented Lucy Grealy, who died way too soon.

    I also wanted to share a post the Jennie wrote with a special request to make a peanut butter pie in his honor on Friday, August 12 http://mamachronicles.typepad.com/in_jennies_kitchen/

    I will be attending his memorial tomorrow, but I have a friend who is baking in my absence and we will eat the pie together and think of Jennie, Mikey and their beautiful family.

    • Teri Carter says:

      Stacy, you might also like Lucy’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FACE. I read it right after TRUTH & BEAUTY. It brought the story full circle, and it’s beautifully written.

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