You know how tearing off a band-aid is supposed to make it hurt less? I think I employed a similar technique to reading this memoir, sitting with it for two straight days to finish it quickly. Because it was so damn painful. It was also beautiful and eye-opening and moving and even, once in a while, funny. I read a lot of passages aloud to Josh, which, to me is a sign of the quality of writing in the book. The words were meant to be released from the page, in fact, the reader could not help but read them aloud.
On pages 79-80, McCracken speaks of losing a friend after Pudding's death. I was struck by the way she wrote this passage because it clearly expresses her feelings about the conflict and about her former friend, replacing the silence that she used to break off the friendship (I suspect the friend in question has read the book by now). Have you lost friends during or after your infertility/loss/adoption? If so, how much of the blame for the loss do you place on communication and/or miscommunication? Does your former friend know how you feel about him or her and the loss of his or her friendship?
We formally only lost one friend and I always thought it was due to infertility--it was certainly their insensitivity that broke the camel's back--but in speaking with them in passing this year, I wonder if we were just looking for an excuse to break ties with them. The husband is a cruel person in general and his wife is unfortunately sucked into his orbit.
Our former friend doesn't know how we feel at all and I've often wondered why she hasn't asked or pushed it. We are obviously still friends with other mutual friends (we saw them, for instance, at a mutual friend's house) which should give them some indication that it's them and not circumstances. In other words, there are people that we don't see often not for any reason other than time and distance. But these people still see us with our mutual friends.
I wonder if she doesn't ask because she secretly knows the answer.
I understand the author's need to let us know at the beginning of the book that she had another (live) child. Generally, I liked her matter of fact tone and writing style. However, I sometimes felt like I was missing some of her raw emotions about the loss. She rushed over the first few months after the loss and hurried towards the second pregnancy, writing about the affect that the loss had on their lives through that second pregnancy. This could be because she did not want to dwell on it, or because she did get pregnant again so fast (within a year). I wondered what it would have been like to read the book not knowing about her successful second pregnancy (if that was even possible to separate out from the loss). Did you find that it took something away from the way you took her loss or took her book as a whole?
We've had a question similar to this with other books we've read: did knowing the final outcome make you read the book differently. Infertility and loss books tend to be written by those who are in a different emotional space--usually holding a child. I think some of that is because when you're in the middle of the crisis, you're not using your energy to try to understand the experience or explain it to others. You're using your energy to breathe, put one foot in front of the other, keep moving. It's only when you're out of the crisis that you can begin to process what happened, set it down in words.
Of course, being out of the crisis of loss or infertility doesn't necessarily mean that you're holding a child. Joan Didion wrote a gorgeous book about loss (albeit a spouse) that is simply about loss. She isn't in a different space in terms of situation though she was in a different space emotionally when she began writing the book.
I think the big difference is that time and resolution gives you the ability to look at the world with distance And books so seeped in emotions, the hurt of the experience, are difficult to read because they're not accessible to the reader. They're too personal. They're too narrow. I think if she tried to write it while she was in the first days of grief, we would have a book about her grief. But, with that distance, she was able to write a book about her grief and have it speak in a larger sense to all grief.
So how to blogs differ? I think it's mostly due to the brevity of the post. A book drags you in and keeps you in for a long period of time and if the author doesn't speak outwardly towards the audience, they keep the reader ensconced in their own story rather than allowing their story to be a springboard to the reader exploring their own thoughts. With a blog post, the writing can be inward but length provides a cliff for the reader to run and jump off. Does that make any sense?
There are obviously books out there (Didion's, for instance) where there isn't a "happy ending." I think McCracken could have written a book without having a baby. But she would have needed a level of resolution and perspective to convince the publisher that it was about the author and reader simultaneously rather than being just about the author. Unfortunately, I think publishers--like so much of the greater public--equate a baby with closure and a lack of baby with a lack of closure. Which isn't the case.
Have you ever wished that someone wrote the book on the "lighter side of losing a child" (or IF, loss, insert your situation here)? Have you ever found that book? Have you found it in a blog? How have you used humor to work through times of grief?
Humour is such a hard line to walk. Of course it helps with the processing of the experience. For instance, I read A Little Pregnant, which I think of as one of the most humourous blogs out there and I think it walks on the same side of the line that McCracken successfully walks: it is funny without losing the weight of the experience. You do not think either author is making fun or dismissing emotions, but instead, there is a wistfulness; a feeling that if you don't laugh, you'll cry; a head nod to the ridiculousness of life.
On the other hand, I have read a book that was presented as a "lighter side of infertility and loss" book and it crossed that line from laughing with me to feeling like it was laughing at me. I felt like the author was completely dismissing the range of emotions inherent in infertility and pushing this one note. If you're in the mood for that one note, it can be interesting to hear. For a bit. If you're not in the mood for that one note, it can be grating and insensitive. The whole message I took from that book was "it's no big deal."
I think the point is that humour only works when the person isn't trying. When humour is a natural extension of their being. Julie's wryness and McCracken's humourous moments can't be borrowed. Either you express yourself well and can use humour to add depth or it becomes the opposite--a painful exercise that ends up pushing away the reader. McCracken does lightness very well because it is always balanced on the other side with the weight of the situation. I wouldn't necessarily want to see someone without that level of skill try to balance the subject matter.
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