WORKING WITH AVAILABLE LIGHT by Jamie Kalven

WORKING WITH AVAILABLE LIGHT

A Family's World After Violence
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir about the aftermath of violence, from an unexpected perspective. On a balmy afternoon in the late summer of 1988, Kalven received a phone call that effectively blocked out the sun: His wife, a professional photographer and dedicated runner, had been attacked. Rushing to the hospital, he discovered that she had been severely beaten and assaulted, but not raped. His relief, however, was premature. What he couldn—t know that afternoon in the emergency room was that his wife’s assailant had stolen her freedom and faith—qualities that she would never again recover in their original forms. He knew only that she was alive. In the subsequent days, weeks, and years, he gained knowledge of the excruciating process of recovery. In his memoir of the five years following the assault, he documents his wife’s slow, difficult healing as her partner, husband, lover, and professional collaborator. What might have been a testament to one woman’s transcendence of violence is instead a story of a marriage—and the way in which one man attempts to understand how his life has been irrevocably transformed by a single, horrifying event. To his credit, Kalven doesn’t hesitate to write about the ambivalence he feels, his own guilt, his wife’s fury. He grieves openly on the page, for what has been lost, and observes his own conflicted feelings about his gender and sexuality with careful, measured words. And yet the narrative has a curiously static quality; it seems to turn inward again and again in a tightly drawn spiral of self-interrogation. The effect can be exhausting; one longs for a sense of momentum, of resolution. But there is none to be found. In that way, the narrative perhaps echoes the process of recovery too closely; the demands of the form insist on closure whether or not it has been achieved in life.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04690-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998