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Crossing the River

Seven Stories That Saved My Life, A Memoir

by Carol Smith

Crossing the River by Carol Smith X
Crossing the River by Carol Smith
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  • Robin B. (Olmsted Falls, OH)
    Crossing the River
    I really enjoyed the book and appreciated the author's exploration and experience of the loss of a loved one and the journey of recovery through the embrace of others and their own journeys. The book may be a help for others in their own healing and processing of the trauma that one may encounter in the loss of those we love.
  • Sherrie R. (Fort Worth, TX)
    Crossing the River by Carol Smith
    This is a beautifully written memoir by Carol Smith who is heartbroken by the death of her young son Christopher and how she was able to overcome her grief. Six months after losing her son, she returns to the newsroom and works on the Medical desk. Each of the seven stories in her book follows people who have faced devastating losses, and how the support of families, friends, the medical community and many others help them find their way to a different type of life.

    She carefully weaves the story of her son's short life through meeting and writing about each of these families and their challenges, finally finding peace. I loved the epilogue with updates and how they are doing now.
  • Kathleen K. (York, ME)
    Inspiration Abounds
    Smith's debut is a powerful and unflinching look at loss, grieving, and finding life afterwards. It is not for the emotionally faint of heart; not only did Smith lose a young child but her subjects include a double amputee, burn victims, fellow bereaved parents, a stroke survivor, and more. Smith's own story is revealed slowly over the course of the book, and while I have read books by bereaved parents before, Smith's view is unique as her loss unfolds over decades - there was something particularly gutting about reading accounts of memorializing adult birthdays and events - such a crystal clear reminder of how losses like this live within us forever. Still, there is strength, there are moments of hope and optimism, and much inspiration to be found within this book.
  • Amber H. (Asheville, NC)
    Beautiful Memoir
    I absolutely loved this memoir! As Carol Smith navigates the grief of her young son's death, she reflects on the stories of people throughout her life. These stories help her to see a way to balance holding onto her grief while navigating towards happiness again. I appreciate how much consideration she puts into the individuals in each story and the lessons she learns from each of them. This book is certainly heavy and can be difficult to read, but a journey into these lives is a beautiful one.
  • Peggy K. (San Marcos, CA)
    Intense,heart breaking loss comes in many forms and the loss of a child may be one of the worst. Finding a way to accept and move on is what this book explores. It is a sad story but also one that the author explores by telling those of others dealing with grief. Beautifully written and one that book clubs can use to discuss deeply. Understanding how the mind deals with death or living with diseases, life altering injuries and more perhaps helps us all live a better life.
  • Laurie W. (Sunnyvale, CA)
    Sharing stories ease suffering
    This book is at the same time personal and universal. Carol Smith smoothly intertwines narration of the tragedy of her own life – the death of her young son – with stories about tragedies in other people's lives. Being a medical reporter puts her in a unique position to find people who are facing challenging circumstances and become immersed in their lives over a period of weeks or months.

    I found the book readable – it kept me interested from chapter to chapter. Her own story and those of her interviewees are tightly woven together. It was heartening to watch as she grappled with her own grief, drawing solace and courage as she spent time with others who wrestled with different, but equally devastating, situations. For me, the main takeaway was that suffering painful circumstances is part of being human and that a path toward healing is formed by being present with other's pain, as well as with ones own. Smith grew more open, with herself and others, acknowledging the joys and pain her son had brought into her life. As she did so, she was able to move forward in her own life. And I hope that reading her story will help others to do the same.
  • Frances Ilnicky-Van Ameyden
    Grace and Grief
    Having a beloved person die immerses us in painful sadness that takes an indeterminate amount of time to process. Carol Smith has written Crossing the River: Seven Stories That Saved My Life, a Memoir that relates her own path of grieving for her only child, Christopher, who dies at age ten of “natural” causes. What could be worse than losing your only child? For Smith it is not only that her cherished son has died, but that she was not with her child when he passed. How can she possibly ‘forget’ this, or him? Smith states that ‘letting go’ of her grief and guilt was the same to her as ‘forgetting’ him, and that would mean Christopher’s life never mattered. Unacceptable! Yet, her ‘living with’ interminable grief was not the answer either because she isolated herself from Life.

    At one point, Smith is faced with a conundrum: When asked “Do you have children?” what should she say? ‘Christopher is my child’ or ‘Christopher was my child.’ The simple statements made no sense to her. She couldn’t make either be true. The author relates that she read in the New York Times that in the Khmer language the term for giving birth (chhlong tonle) means (“to cross the river”). In her grief she feels like she is being swept away by rushing waters, that she is drowning. Yet, she cannot die because who will remember her sweet son? There is no answer to 'why my child?' Her child’s death impels her to look at how other people grieve under their own painful circumstances.

    As a journalist at Seattle Post- Intelligencer, (she previously worked at the Los Angeles Times), Smith’s boss suggests that Smith try her hand at medical stories. Since she’d been immersed in medicine with her son’s health problems for ten years, it seemed reasonable. Smith deftly investigates, probes, researches, and reports on seven people who each face a unique medical situation. It is through her immersion in each of these stories that Smith begins to realize that there is trans-formative power in loss, and that Hope and loss, Joy and sorrow, Grace and grief can co-exist.

    Carol Smith writes so well that even though the reader is exposed to some horrific circumstances in a few stories, the book and its “lessons” move along. This book could do well as a book club choice if members are first aware of the author’s reason for writing.
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