An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

TWENTYONE OLIVE TREES

A MOTHER’S WALK THROUGH THE GRIEF OF SUICIDE TO HOPE AND HEALING

A San Francisco–based author confronts the pain of grief and loss following her son’s suicide in this debut collection of memoiristic fables, poetry, and letters.

“My son Blaise was my soul mate and my partner in crime on many adventures,” says Formentini in her introduction. She describes the unique bond the two shared and how they enjoyed world travel together, visiting Cambodia, Lapland, and other far-off locales. She also says that Blaise’s highly sensitive nature, combined with drug addiction, led him to suicide in 2019. In this book, Formentini examines the grief she’s experienced in the hope of finding peace. The collection’s title refers to the 21 olive trees that the author intends to plant—one for each year of her son’s life. The book also includes 21 letters and poems the author wrote to Blaise in the year following his death that describe her grieving process. Each letter is accompanied by a hopeful fable that explores human connection; for instance, “Camel and Spider” tells of two friends separated by desert wind. Formentini’s debut offers insightful, finely textured reflections on the dynamics of grief. Her early poetry is understandably raw and confrontational: “One thing that makes me so pissed off, / is you leaving me like this.” However, as the book progresses, this rage transforms into a sedate spiritual understanding: “That is where I Find You, / In that Light that Shines its Love, / and which has always been at the / Very Core of My Being.” The deeply personal poetry is counterbalanced by the fictional tales, which present broader, more universal truths. The author’s power to move readers is exemplified by the closing of “Camel and Spider” when Camel says, “You’re in the moon. You’re in every grain of sand. I can’t see anything without seeing you, Spider.” Cooper’s full-color illustrations add to the book’s unusual melding of genres. The end result is a tenderly philosophical study that offers hope and solace.

An offbeat and uplifting contribution to the literature of grief.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1955119061

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Kat Biggie Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A somber, sage book about art-making that deserves a readership beyond Cave’s fan base.

FAITH, HOPE AND CARNAGE

The Australian alt-rock icon talks at length about the relationship between faith, death, and art.

Like many touring musicians stalled during the pandemic, Cave pursued an autobiographical book project while in quarantine. But rather than write a standard memoir, he instead consented to a book of extensive interviews with U.K. arts journalist O’Hagan, photography critic for the Guardian and a feature writer for the Observer. Cave chose this approach in order to avoid standard rock-star patter and to address grittier, more essential matters. On that front, he has plenty of material to work with. Much of the book focuses on his 15-year-old son Arthur, who died from an accidental fall off a cliff in 2015. The loss fueled Cave’s 2019 album, Ghosteen, but Cave sees the connection between life and art as indirect, involving improvisation, uncertainty, and no small amount of thinking about religion. “The loss of my son is a condition; not a theme,” he tells O’Hagan. Loss is a constant in these conversations—during the period when they were recorded, Cave’s mother also died, as did his former band mate Anita Lane. Yet despite that, this is a lively, engrossing book energized by Cave’s relentless candor—and sometimes counterintuitive thinking—about his work and his demons. His well-documented past heroin addiction, he says, “fed into my need for a conservative and well-ordered life.” Grief, he suggests, is surprisingly clarifying: “We become different. We become better.” Throughout, he talks about the challenges and joys of songwriting and improvisation (mostly around Carnage, the 2021 album he recorded with band mate Warren Ellis during this period) and about the comfort he gets answering questions from fans and strangers on his website. O’Hagan knows Cave’s work well, but he avoids fussy discographical queries and instead pushes Cave toward philosophical elaborations, which he’s generally game for.

A somber, sage book about art-making that deserves a readership beyond Cave’s fan base.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60737-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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