BEYOND WORDS by Gayle A. Huntress


A Memoir Story
Email this review


A bereft daughter’s journey through grief and healing.

In her debut memoir, Huntress tells the story of her parents’ untimely deaths from cancer and the profound effects of those tragedies on her and her brothers. The author leads readers through her own personal history, beginning with her picturesque 1980s New England childhood and later focusing on her constant search for home and belonging that began with her father’s death. She presents her memoir as a series of detailed, chronological vignettes, and despite its wrenching subject matter, Huntress skillfully avoids self-pity; instead, she evokes the clear voices of her younger selves, immersing readers in the past as she experienced it. As a child, for example, she noted that grieving “is the name for what happens on the insides of everyone left behind after someone dies.” Her careful exploration of her evolving perspectives on mourning and growth is one of her book’s greatest strengths. The narrative does lack momentum at times, particularly in later chapters, which focus on the minutiae of the author’s therapy sessions, but even these sections retain a meditative sense of personal reflection. Readers coping with their own losses may find Huntress’ story particularly affecting, but many of her sharp insights are universal. One particularly vivid passage asks: “I wonder if they named it the rib cage because it is designed to hold in our hearts, to cage up the wild and terrible residue of living.” The author uses the loss of her parents as a starting point for broader philosophical journeys, as she strives to understand how the past connects to the present and future: “Maybe this is how the true past really is,” she writes. “You can try to bury it away in a safe place so you can revisit it just as it was whenever you want, but years later when you go to retrieve it, no matter how long you dig, it still eludes you.” Her reconstruction of her own past, elusive as it may be, results in a rich, ultimately hopeful read that thoughtfully contributes to age-old discussions of life and love.

A moving, enlightening study of loss and its surprising consequences.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1492956341
Page count: 332pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2014


IndieTHROUGH KENNY'S EYES by Carol Jones
by Carol Jones
NonfictionTHE HEART OF GRIEF by Thomas Attig
by Thomas Attig
NonfictionA MUSIC I NO LONGER HEARD by Leslie Simon
by Leslie Simon