Emotional memoir of a young life turned upside down by sudden death and then slowly put back right.
Taylor constructs her memoir from entries in a journal she kept after her young husband, Josh, died in a skateboarding accident. The author was 24 years old and five months pregnant when it happened, and she unsparingly recorded her deep despair and anger at her loss. Although surrounded by a large, close family and many supportive friends, she was devastated by her new status as a young widow and overwhelmed by the challenges of being a single mother. Taylor briefly recounts her sessions with a grief counselor and details her meetings with a single-mothers group and with a bereavement group of mostly seniors. Although she learned and benefited from these groups, the care of her son, Kai, was what truly restored her. At Kai’s first smile, she writes, “motherhood body slammed wifehood and deemed herself to be bigger, stronger, and downright more important.” Especially rewarding are the author’s descriptions of her 11th-grade English class, where she offers wry comments about her students and pithy summaries of novels she is teaching. She also ponders her relationship with certain literary characters, including Gatsby, who longs to re-create the past; Gregor Samsa, who undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis; and Of Mice and Men’s Lennie and George, who are powerless to change their lives. Taylor does change her life, and the closing pages find her testing herself by finishing a triathlon. Despite the heartbreak, this candid memoir of a journey into and out of darkness has a full quota of humor and ends on a note of hope.
Women’s book groups take note: For a lively discussion, compare with Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005).