A French mother's lyrical and haunting memoir of the deaths of her two young daughters and how she has coped with this terrible loss. In 1980 Jurgensen's daughters, Mathilde (age 7) and Elise (age 4), were killed by a drunk driver. How does one live with the pain and grief of surviving one's children? How does one express this loss and love in words? The Disappearance is Jurgensen's unsentimental and candid response to these questions. In a series of letters to a friend written from 1991 to 1993, the author draws an intimate portrait of her life before and after her daughters' deaths. The epistolary approach serves Jurgensen well, eliciting honest emotions and a lean lyricism. Slowly and sensitively she introduces us to the facts of the tragic accident. We learn about her own reaction to the girls' deaths and how she managed to continue her life, and about her loving relationship with her husband, Laurent, which helps sustain her in times of deep depression and grief. Jurgensen's pain is palpable and her book is at times too sad to read without setting it down. One of the most compelling aspects of Jurgensen's story is how the two dead daughters have remained a presence in the family, even as the family grew with the addition of two subsequent children. From innocent questions about family size to her two younger children's inquiries and formulations about their "older" siblings, Jurgensen candidly discusses her emotional and rational responses to both strangers and loved ones about her first two daughters. We celebrate with her when an old acquaintance who knew the girls comments when seeing the younger two: "they are so, so alike all four of them." Jurgensen's is a powerful voice for the unbearable sadness caused by death and the courage and love it takes to live with both the pain of loss and the cherished memories.
Read full book review >