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TWENTYONE OLIVE TREES by Laura   Formentini Kirkus Star


A Mother’s Walk Through the Grief of Suicide to Hope and Healing

by Laura Formentini illustrated by Marit Cooper

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1955119061
Publisher: Kat Biggie Press

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.