Crossing the River: Book summary and reviews of Crossing the River by Carol Smith

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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Book Summary

A powerful exploration of grief following the death of the author's son that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way. Helen MacDonald found solace in training a wild goshawk. Cheryl Strayed found comfort in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. For Carol Smith, a Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist struggling with the sudden death of her seven-year-old son Christopher, the way to cross the river of sorrow was through work.

In Crossing the River, Smith recounts how she faced down her crippling loss through reporting a series of profiles of people coping with their own intense challenges, whether a freak accident, a debilitating injury, or a terrifying diagnosis. Smith deftly mixes the stories of these individuals and their families with her own account of how they helped her heal. General John Shalikashvili, once the most powerful member of the American military, taught Carol how to face fear with discipline and endurance. Seth, a young boy with a rare and incurable illness, shed light on the totality of her son's experiences, and in turn helps readers see that the value of a life is not measured in days.

This is a beautiful and profoundly moving book, an unforgettable journey through grief, and a valuable, illuminating read for anyone coping with loss.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[Smith's] job at the Post-Intelligencer ended with the paper's demise as a print publication, but the stories she collected from that time inform this intimate and humane narrative that should offer solace for readers who have experienced similar circumstances. An uplifting group of moving stories." - Kirkus Reviews

"There is no rule book for how to grieve, so we are left to navigate our own way through it, hopeful that there are compasses in the world to point us in the right direction. Crossing the River is one such compass. An unflinching look at Carol Smith's grief after the loss of her young son, it illuminates how sometimes going to the very places we want to hide from can show us the way." - Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

"Crossing the River grapples with an unbearable loss, one that no parent, or reader for that matter, ever wants to confront. Carol Smith dares us to enter this world of grief with her and by doing so gives us a vulnerable and brave story of resilience, hope, and healing that can only be found in communion with others." - Salamishah Tillet, author of In Search of the Color Purple

This information about Crossing the River shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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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)

Grief
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.

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Carol Smith

Carol Smith is an award-winning journalist and editor for NPR affiliate KUOW in Seattle. Previously she worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Los Angeles Times. Her newspaper work has won dozens of national and regional awards and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize a remarkable seven times, and her writing has appeared in more than a dozen literary journals. Smith was recently named Editor of the Year by Public Media Journalists Association. One of Carol's great passions is working with KUOW's youth radio group, Radioactive, which teaches high school students from diverse backgrounds to tell their personal stories for radio in their own voices.

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