American novelist Francisco Goldman married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in a romantic Mexican hacienda in the summer of 2005. The month before their second anniversary, during a long-awaited holiday, Aura broke her neck while body surfing. Francisco, blamed for Aura's death by her family and blaming himself, wanted to die, too. But instead he wrote Say Her Name, a novel chronicling his great love and unspeakable loss, tracking the stages of grief when pure love gives way to bottomless pain.
Suddenly a widower, Goldman collects everything he can about his wife, hungry to keep Aura alive with every memory. From her childhood and university days in Mexico City with her fiercely devoted mother to her studies at Columbia University, through their newlywed years in New York City and travels to Mexico and Europe - and always through the prism of her gifted writings - Goldman seeks her essence and grieves her loss. Humor leavens the pain as he lives through the madness of utter grief and creates a living portrait of a love as joyous and playful as it is deep and profound.
Say Her Name is a love story, a bold inquiry into destiny and accountability, and a tribute to Aura, who she was and who she would have been.
Aura died on July 25, 2007. I went back to Mexico for the first anniversary because I wanted to be where it had happened, at that beach on the Pacific coast. Now, for the second time in a year, I'd come home again to Brooklyn without her.
Three months before she died, April 24, Aura had turned thirty. We'd been married twenty-six days shy of two years. Aura's mother and uncle accused me of being responsible for her death. It's not as if I consider myself not guilty. If I were Juanita, I know I would have wanted to put me in prison too. Though not for the reasons she and her brother gave.
From now on, if you have anything to say to me, put it in writing - that's what Leopoldo, Aura's uncle, said on the telephone when he told me that he was acting as Aura's mother's attorney in the case against me. We haven't spoken since.
Aura and me
Aura and her mother
Her mother and me
A love-hate triangle, or, I don't know
Mi amor, is this really happening?
Où sont les axolotls?
In poetic fragments and reconstructions of memory, Goldman pieces together the cause of Aura's disaster, then takes off into breathless passages of storytelling in which the tale of a great love and a completely unexpected accident come together. Reading Say Her Name is like watching a painting grow on a canvas, and Goldman is a writer in the way that Van Gogh was a painter - slashing streaks of color, ominous shadows, bursts of light, madness, delight, agony, devotion, and delicate detail across his pages.
(Reviewed by Judy Krueger).
Full Review (965 words).
In addition to memorializing and honoring Aura Estrada in his novel, Francisco Goldman also established a literary prize in 2008 in her name.
Aura Estrada was a published short story writer in several Mexican and Latin American magazines including Letralia, Letras Libres, and Gatopardo, and, among many other projects, she published book reviews for The Boston Review and Bookforum. In the year before her death, she was at work on a novel. Though she was close to earning her PhD through the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Literature at Columbia University, her dream was to be a fiction writer and, while still at Columbia, she enrolled in an MFA program at Hunter College in New York.
The Aura Estrada Prize is awarded biannually with...
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