A sensitive search for comfort and reason following a daughter's death by fire. Crider's only child, Gretchen, away at college, died from smoke inhalation and burns when her room caught fire. This is Crider's attempt to come to terms with that tragedy and to bring solace to others who cannot find any in church or other recognized forms of spirituality. His meditation takes the form of a yearlong diary beginning a month after Gretchen's death, which has left him ``dazed, hurt, and afraid.'' Time and again, he reviews the circumstances of her death and the ways in which he might have prevented it. Not religious or even a believer in a supreme being, he tries virtually anything that is recommended, from support groups to New Age therapies, but so consuming and unrelenting is his grief that it may (according to his psychologist) even have triggered multiple sclerosis in him. Questions—why? and why me?—emerge in ``the whiny . . . tone of a child'' thwarted in its demands. Reading omnivorously, he takes what comfort he can from sources as disparate as Shakespeare (Macbeth is the source of the book's title), Buddhism, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Khalil Gibran, the Mahabharata, and an Oglala Sioux holy man. Seasons pass. Hiking, gardening, and lugging and fitting rocks to build a wall with no practical purpose connect him with both nature's beauty and its disinterest in the concerns of humans. But spurred by memories and daily reminders of his daughter, he still ``questions the rightness and reality of Gretchen's death.'' At last, he no longer fights against ``unreason'' and says, ``This may be defeat, but it feels more like liberation.'' A narrative filled with pain, anger, and resentment that, with the help of poets and sages, gradually gives way to sorrowful acceptance—and may teach others how to do the same.
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