IN A DARK WOOD by Joseph Luzzi


What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love
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Dante serves as a guide through a landscape of sorrow.

In November 2007, Luzzi (Italian/Bard Coll.; My Two Italies, 2014, etc.) faced a cataclysmic change in his life: his wife, eight and a half months pregnant, was killed in a car accident; his daughter, born prematurely, was fighting for her life. As he struggled with grief, guilt, and loneliness, Dante’s works, which he had long been teaching, “gave me the language to understand my own profound sense of displacement. More important, they enabled me to connect my anguished state to a work of transcendent beauty.” In this frank and engaging memoir, Luzzi demonstrates a deep knowledge of Dante’s life and writing, interweaving the poet’s experiences with his own. He admits feeling numb after the accident, unsure of his ability to be a father and emotionally detached from his infant daughter. As much as he missed his wife, he yearned to find another love; self-protectively, he buried himself obsessively in teaching and scholarship. Dante suffered similarly, condemned to exile, mourning the death of his beloved Beatrice, and devoting himself obsessively to poetry. Luzzi is not proud of turning over his daughter’s care to his selfless 77-year-old mother and sisters, for him “the path of least resistance” that allowed him to return to the classroom and, nearly a year into widowerhood, to begin a relationship. With his competent female relatives willing to raise his daughter, he decided he couldn’t face “the drudgery [and] grinding rhythms of focusing exclusively on a child.” He had never, he confesses, considered what child care responsibilities he would have had if his wife had lived. When his first relationship ended, he embarked on a desperate search for a companion, meeting women through online dating sites, which was a dispiriting experience. It took years before he found a new love and embraced his role as a father.

A forthright chronicle of emergence from darkness.

Pub Date: May 26th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-235751-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harper Wave/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


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