Elizabeth McCracken responds to the pull of grief. She embraces and succumbs to it with a fresh and frank examination of grief in all its components. And she does it well.
Elizabeth and her husband Edward’s son is born while they are luxuriating in France – a stillborn. They have called him Pudding all through the pregnancy and Elizabeth continues to do so. A year and 5 days later, their second son is born. While Pudding was born in France, her second child is born in Saratoga Springs, New York in 2007. As Elizabeth chronicles her pain and the solid truth of grief, she remembers writing in Bordeaux: “This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending.” She puzzles over how happy she was, how joyous she and her husband were, living pregnant in Bordeaux. And then the impossible happened. I immediately thought of the book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” but Elizabeth states the truth about herself. Her sadness and grief are just that – sadness and grief. Her baby is still dead. And as we read through her daily struggles we gain insight into what it’s really like, losing a child, the moment to moment living of it. Like William Styron’s book about his horrible depression, the days slide by, but you are in another country. Alone.
Both Elizabeth and Edward are writers. Through Elizabeth’s eyes, we see her travel through the numbness, the despair, and how she implements humor and “just keep going” to survive. One of her most poignant moments are when people ask her if her second infant is her first child. “How many children do I have?” she asks herself. “How many are there of me?” She speaks of her second pregnancy – of making no plans, of walking on eggshells, of leaving France never to return. As she relates her experiences – the pain of friends saying the wrong things, the pain of friends not saying anything, the loss when she hears of another friend having a healthy baby, Elizabeth leads us into the chaos and uncertainty of loss. But she needs the recognition that there had been a Pudding, her son, and the condolences, she writes, “felt like oxygen.” Her rage, her friend Lib who emailed her daily, the small and large things that kept her sane; this journal like memoir carries everything of Elizabeth’s heart and mind. They do not seek to know the second baby’s gender, it is too hard.
Reading this astounding book of Elizabeth’s life with Edward, with her doctors, with the terror of her second baby hovering in her belly when Pudding was still – would always be – I felt startled with the amazing story of the human capacity to endure. Her self recriminations, guilt, the love of her husband Edward through it all – this is one memoir, though difficult to read, must be read. As Elizabeth holds Pudding in the sling of her heart and balances the thought of another child living inside her, we feel her struggle. And although we can not feel her pain, we can touch it.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Book Review by Broad “A” – Ava
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is available for purchase at Amazon.com
Thank you to the Hachette Book Group for providing this title for our book review as well as this giveaway. We were in no way paid or compensated for our opinions.
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