Donnelly (Recovering from the Loss of a Sibling, 1987, etc.) combines personal testimonies with the observations of professionals to examine the unique ways in which AIDS affects surviving friends, siblings, parents, lovers, children, and spouses. Chapter by chapter, Donnelly explores the feelings of each category of survivor, ending with the ``hidden grievers'': those fearful of revealing that AIDS was the cause of a loved one's death. Their fear seems justified by many of the narratives, which tell of the added pain inflicted by friends, clergy, and others who shunned them on hearing AIDS had caused the death. The strength of the book lies in the range of losses, reactions, and coping strategies Donnelly explores, as well as the diversity of relationships she considers, from spouses and lovers to the grandmother who lost three grandchildren to AIDS, to straight women mourning best friends who were gay men. Some of the first-person stories are powerful; as an interviewer, Donnelly occasionally manages to bring out people's eccentric and perceptive sides. This helps the book to steer clear of the self-help manual's too-common tendency to make everyone's experience sound the same. However, these narratives are the book's substance, and Donnelly doesn't always use them well. Too often, she lets the stories run on, become repetitive, or stand without interpretation; in other cases, she tells the reader how to feel about them, labeling them ``moving,'' ``beautiful,'' or ``poignant.'' Further, the author is irritatingly self-promoting: At several points she quotes survivors telling us how glad they are to be in the book. Despite its flaws, this will be useful to many survivors because it lets them know that they are not alone and that systems of support exist. Perhaps most helpful is the state-by-state resource directory.
Read full book review >