Thursday, June 5, 2008

Read This Book!

Imagine this. You take your sunny six-year-old daughter to the hospital for something routine and hours later she dies of a massive infection.

Imagine trying to come out from under all the grief, to make sense of it, or to find the slightest reason for any sort of joy at all. Novelist Ann Hood did exactly that in her astonishing brave and heartwrenching new memoir, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (I raved about it in Dame Magazine this month.)

Ann was gracious enough to answer some of my questions, posted below

1. Although grief is not circular, but more of a rollercoaster, the element of the circle of time figures predominantly in the book for me. There's the photo on the cover of the lovely circular bracelet, and there is also the circle of your adopting a little girl at the end of the book. Do you feel that there is any sort of sense to life now? Or is it simply the day to day moments that give life meaning and purpose?

I am more appreciative of moments, of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary: Annabelle's hugs, my son Sam singing on stage in Fiddler on the Roof, the smell of lilacs in my yard. Perhaps we are not meant to make sense of life? For me, losing Grace will never make sense. All I can do is remember, again, the brief moments I had with her and relish them.

2. What I loved about this extraordinary book was your bravery. What's truly comforting is that you don't offer any false comfort. There is simply the honest sense that this is the way it was for you and you show yourself emerging as best you can. You don't try to impose any sort of tied-up-with-a-bow meaning. Did you read any of the plethora of books on grieving that are in the stores (or did you hurl them across the room?) Did anything, other than knitting and your family, help you?

I hurled them! I did! Some tried to give outlines and steps to get over loss, and I found that not only insulting but also futile. Dr. Therese Rando's books on grief are useful and honest. Bt I found those later. Knitting, friends, family, my return to cooking and reading. Those got me through. they still do.

3. What I also loved about your book was how the voice differed in the essays, from the ragged anger of the prelude to the almost haunting calm of the final essay. Was there ever a moment when you felt, no, I don't want to be writing about this anymore, or do you feel that this time and this grief will somehow always be infused in your writing?

I think this grief will always be lodged in me, and as time passes and I see new pieces of it I will write about that. But I also am pleased that I have moved into other writing that celebrates life: a travel piece on Tuscany for Bon Appetit, going "green" for Good Housekeeping, cooking with my family for More Magazine. And a new novel.

4. Your new book, I believe, is about adoption. Can you speak a little bit about it?

I am very superstitious about talking too much about something so new. But I can say that it explores several families on the path to adopting babies from China, like we did with Annabelle. At its heart, it is about baby yearning, love, and hope.

5. What question should I have asked you that I didn't?

Well, I just want to say that Monday night I was sitting at a cafe with a friend in NYC, on 6th Avenue, and I watched all the people passing by, and I thought: I am no different than anyone of them. Loss is part of all of our lives. But I was very lucky to be given this gift of writing, the ability to articulate what we all feel, to put words to this enormous thing. That is what I tried to do.

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