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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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  • Shirl (Wisconsin)
    Deeply touching book!
    "Crossing the River" is a book that I found deeply touching. I was drawn to the book because I also lost a child. My situation was different however, in that my daughter was a young adult when she died from cancer. While this book has threads of hope, I did find it very difficult to read. It just seemed to deal with so much sadness and disturbing detail. While I can see this as part of grief over losing a loved one, it was also very difficult for me to deal with. Overall, I think I would let anyone know this if they talked about reading the book, rather than just recommend it. I do think it was well written and touching.
  • Laurin B. (Sister Bay, WI)
    Writing to Heal
    A seasoned, award-winning journalist takes an unlikely path toward healing the excoriating grief of losing her young son to an unexpected death after a brief life fraught with medical complications. In Crossing The River, Carol Smith dives into a world of human suffering through a series of articles she composes featuring extraordinary people navigating crippling debilities and diagnoses and still finding joy. Through interviewing her subjects, spending time with them and writing the articles for the Seattle newspaper she works for, she receives the unexpected gift of healing of her own tragedy. Smith's memoir, a deeply personal journey of recovery from grief, is an exceptionally lyrical and beautifully written work of literature that invites the reader to follow her through intimate revelations leading her to a place of acceptance, forgiveness, healing and hope.
  • Janet O. (Beaverton, OR)
    Crossing the River
    Author Carol Smith writes in the introduction to her memoir CROSSING THE RIVER that after the death of her young son, Christopher, "I couldn't read the map to find my way out of the vast, harsh landscape of my grief." It was not until she returned to work as a reporter for a major Seattle newspaper that she began to understand her loss and begin to heal. Her prose reflects her skill as a journalist through accurate and objective reporting of seven situations where families and individuals confronted unique and difficult challenges related to illness and death. Through he relationships with these people she came to see her own situation through a new lens. She realized that by refusing to talk about Christopher's death, she was denying herself the opportunity to talk about his life which truly had meaning that endures. She learned to embrace hope and joy and reclaim her identity as a loving mother of a happy child. Although the book is the story of one woman's journey, it offers valuable insights about the grieving process and would be helpful to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
  • Shannon L. (Portland, OR)
    Beautiful but sad!
    Crossing the River is the memoir of Carol Smith and the death of Christopher, her seven year old son. She describes her grief as overwhelming and lasting for decades. Smith is also a journalist who specializes in medical stories so she had many opportunities to meet and interview people who were facing their own incredible health challenges and we are introduced to seven of them. Seven persons who provided her with seven lessons she could apply to her own grieving, healing and future.

    Smith borrowed her title from the 1993 novel by Caryl Phillips. "Crossing the river" is a metaphor for death and deliverance. It is an invitation for children to cross a river, to a new home, after they have passed on. In Phillips novel, it is about the great obstacles Africans overcame during their lives after being forcefully displaced from the life they knew and planned for. In Smith's version of Crossing the River, we follow Christopher's illness and death. We see the disconnect from the life she has planned for and her own path to deliverance.

    Smith introduces us to the people she interviews, people with whom she develops real connections. They include a double amputee, a burn victim, a child with progeria (aging too rapidly and dying, usually, in their teens) and other catastrophic conditions. We feel their loneliness and see where they find hope and optimism. We learn the lessons that Smith did as she spent time with each individual.

    Maybe it is because we are just closing out Pandemic of 2020, but I could not find that same sense of hope or optimism. Smith writes with a beautiful honesty and vulnerability. Her connection with the seven persons in these stories is real and compassionate. But, honestly the raw pain felt because of her excellent writing was too much for me. I had a hard time finishing it. Maybe if I had read it at any other time, I would have found it optimistic and uplifting but right now I found it more depressing that encouraging.
  • Shirley T. (Comfort, TX)
    Crossing the River
    This memoir is immensely moving and engages the reader in the grief suffered by the author upon the birth and death of her damaged and brave, beloved son, Christopher.

    The stories of the lives of others who had suffered are related by the author who is a journalist. It is an interesting way for her to deal slowly with her own situation. The bravery of those who were prepared to share the details of their lives is remarkable.

    This book is not for everyone as the medical details are relentless but the author manages to use the story to the fullest to remember her son and deal with her loss.
  • Nicole S. (St. Paul, MN)
    I was not in the right space
    I want to be fair to the author, this book requires the reader to be in the right head and heart space. I was not there. It is heavy and sad. It has glimmers of joy and healing. It may be that I read this during month 11 of Covid (depending on when you start counting), but it did not touch me in the way the author meant.
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