A Boston Brahmin who had it all chronicles her experiences dealing with the tragic death of her beloved young daughter.
The descendant of successful New England merchants and the distinguished essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Forbes was heir to wealth and a tradition of spiritualism that included both transcendentalism and a belief in ghosts. On the surface, her life seemed perfect. However, beneath the privilege was a family past that included alcoholism, divorce and repression that caused Forbes to distance herself from her emotions. An apparently happy marriage brought her the peace and stability she craved, but when her 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, died from a rare genetic disorder, her world began to implode. Forbes immersed herself in the mementos of her daughter’s brief life and gradually began the process of mourning Charlotte’s death. In search of guidance for how to navigate “life…death and grieving,” Forbes turned to the wisdom of her ancestors and joined support groups. But it wasn’t until she took a friend’s advice to see a medium that she began to accept Charlotte’s passing as a form of spiritual transition and understand the depth of her connection to the Emersonian part of her heritage. As “the boundaries between the natural and supernatural, the living and the dead” became redefined, the author became increasingly aware that “there was still room for grief even while [she] was full of life.” At the same time, she realized that her husband, who had mourned Charlotte’s death with greater openness and ferocity, was holding her back from personal fulfillment. Middle-aged but spiritually renewed, she struck out on her own. Forbes’ book is at heart an exercise in articulating emotions scorned by her upbringing. Yet its elisions—most notably, those dealing with Forbes’ marriage and relationship to her husband—make for less-than-satisfying reading.
An occasionally interesting but otherwise unremarkable book about how even the privileged can truly experience heartbreaking trauma.