Summary and book reviews of Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name

A Novel

By Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2011,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2012,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

1

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.

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?

Whenever Aura...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (965 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Colm Toibin
This is a beautiful love story, and an extraordinary story of loss. Say Her Name has a forensic honesty, a way of treating each detail, each moment, each emotion, with detailed and exact care. It also has a way of holding the reader, of moving between Brooklyn and Mexico City, capturing the essence of two worlds, capturing the essence of two people who were lucky enough to fall in love.

Author Blurb Annie Proulx
Say Her Name is the terrible account of Goldman's loss of his young wife at a remote Mexican beach, but the strong center is his minute examination of his own possible guilt as he wades through the noded, hallucinatory complications of human relations, follows the twisted rails of communication between himself and the intense personalities of Aura's family. Wrenching, funny, powerful, beautiful.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Goldman calls this book a novel and employs some novelistic techniques (composite characters, for instance), but the foundation is in truth: messy, ugly, and wildly complicated truth.

Library Journal

Starred Review. The feeling, the memorial incarnation that this book creates, is monumental... This book about tragic death is a gift for the living.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Moving and tragic... gorgeous, heartbreaking.

Booklist

Starred Review. Enrapturing... Vivid... Goldman has entwined fact and fiction in his previous novels, but never so daringly or so poignantly... Tender, candid, sorrowful, and funny... Goldman has forged a radiant and transcendent masterpiece.

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The Aura Estrada Prize

In addition to memorializing and honoring Aura Estrada in his novel, Francisco Goldman also established a literary prize in 2008 in her name. Francisco Goldman with Aura Estrada 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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