I have to say I feel so weird reviewing such an honest and open book. I feel like if I criticize anything, or don’t have the reactions most people have, I’m judging the author’s feelings instead of her writing or storytelling. But I’m going to try to set that aside.
I can’t tell if I didn’t enjoy this book much because I listened to the audio version or because it just wasn’t a great book. Possibly it was a combination of both.
As previously mentioned, I have a job some find odd. Because of that work I spend time trying to better understand grief. When I’m writing plans for how to help people experiencing an unexpected loss, I want to know as much as I can to avoid increasing their pain. I’ve repeatedly heard and seen that there is no ‘right’ way to grieve, and that while nothing we say is going to make the person feel as they did before their loss, there are certainly things we can say and do that actively do not help. With that in mind, when I heard about this book, I thought it would be interesting to get an individual’s perspective on her own grief, especially an individual who is an eloquent writer.
O’Rourke’s mother died of cancer, and clearly it has affected the author greatly. None of my friends have lost a parent while I’ve known them (a few have lost parents prior to me meeting them), so I’ve not witnessed the grief of a loss of a parent at such a young age and cannot comment on how universal the author’s insights are.
O’Rourke did a lot of research to support the book. It is part personal memoir, and part exploration of other explorations of grief, if that makes sense. She details her experience with her mother’s illness, the changes in her mother’s life, and in her own life, while dealing with the reality of a terminal illness. It was refreshing to hear a perspective that involved not just the direct experience with the dying but the attempts to manage one’s personal life. The author experiences different intimate relationships during her mother’s illness and immediately following it, and she describes them in a way that helps provide some insight into her daily life that isn’t just how she is relating to her father and siblings.
One part that I did really find to be well-done was her tackling of the ‘stages of grief’ idea that is so prevalent in our society. It seems most people don’t know (I only learned this last year) that the stages of grief are actually meant to address the stages people who are dying go through. Not those dealing with the loss of another person, but those dealing with their impending death.
Hee discussion about her relationship with her mom was interesting but had me wondering how much was real and how much was an idealized memory. It seems inevitable that most everyone gets a bump in esteem upon death; I wonder how a memoir about the author’s relationship with her mother would have looked if her mother had never been diagnosed. Woukd it still be so flattering? Does that matter?
I really do think that I would have found the book more interesting if I had read it and not listened to it. The author’s complete monotone voice throughout six hours of reading made it hard to delineate between the happy, the sad, the informative and the funny. She sounded like a bored senior in high school reading a book report. If I had been reading I could have applied the same imagination I apply to other books when I read them, and I think that would have been preferable.
Thus far I’ve listened to three other books, and all were (mostly) light, comedic books. This one required a bit more brain power and thoughtful processing of the words, and I wasn’t as able to do that when I was on a run or walking home from work. I’ve learned my lesson and will be sticking to the light stuff for my audio books.