A sensitive self-portrait of a wife-turned-widow and a town shaken by senseless tragedy.
In her debut memoir, Barkman describes her 47-year marriage to her husband, Leon, including the difficult months following his death. She also documents the death of little Robin, the son of a family friend who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. With a tearful aimlessness, the author documents the grief following the losses of Leon and a boy she considered her grandson. She copes with the tragedies by creating routines of meals and chores, recording her thoughts in a journal, and staying connected to friends and family through endless email dispatches, many of which appear in this book. She puts an emphasis on her own physical and mental health to demonstrate how routine and creativity brought her back from the brink of breakdown. The sometimes-tedious journaling weighs down the narrative, but Barkman interweaves these emotionally charged memories with meditations on nature (including her and Leon’s shared passion for birding), asides on hobbies such as painting and yoga, and affably chatty small-town gossip. She also intersperses the story of Newtown residents coping with the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shooting with memories from her decades with Leon. From their first days as free-spirited hitchhikers in 1960s Europe to their golden years hiking and biking all over the East Coast, Barkman stipples their journey with the details that define a relationship: the sayings, habits and particulars that anyone in a long marriage will recognize. Her frank discussion of their relationship’s rocky stretches create a cracked but honest portrait, with shades of mourning that blend, intensify and fade over time.
A conflicted, wistful tribute that will resonate with readers who have felt love and loss.