When a child dies, her immediate family members face grief, longing and rebuilding in this true story.
Flohr’s daughter Sarah was 16 when she died due to a freak car accident. The moment was devastating to her family, particularly her identical twin, Caiti. Yet every member of Sarah’s extended clan—including her divorced parents, her stepfather, her elementary school–aged brother and her grandparents—was left wondering how to restart his or her life after the trauma. The author felt this pain more acutely than most; her so-called “failures” as a parent and Sarah’s tempestuous nature clashed often, and she found peace elusive. She tries to piece together Sarah’s thoughts in the days and weeks before her death in this book and struggles to understand her grief process by taking a bird’s eye view of it. “ ‘There’s been an accident, and Sarah has been killed.’ The tears begin at that moment,” she writes. “I couldn’t know then that they would flow for the next five years, every day, and every night.” Although her loss was profound, the author managed to put herself outside her own sadness to take care of the tasks at hand: burying her child, repairing the damage to her second marriage, and raising two baby daughters and a son. On the edge of the story is the dazed Caiti, who wanders like a ghost throughout the narrative. The book is most compelling when we see Sarah’s side of the story, whether through her own writings or the author’s imagined play-by-play of her decision to get into that car on that summer night. The story honestly depicts a real family; the author doesn’t sugarcoat the ugliness of divorce or the anger of miscommunication. The book also provides no grand “life lesson,” which works in its favor. It shows that Sarah’s decision to get into that car that night wasn’t an act of rebellion; she was just a teen in search of food and adventure. Such a book on one’s nightstand, particularly if one is in the midst of the grieving process, could offer solace in a way that fiction never could.
A pointed, intelligently told story of a family accepting loss gracefully.