Grief Memoirs: Background information when reading Crossing the River

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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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  • First Published:
    May 2021, 272 pages

    May 2022, 272 pages


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Grief Memoirs

This article relates to Crossing the River

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Grief Memoir Book Covers Carol Smith's Crossing the River recounts the death of her young son, Christopher, in combination with stories of other people who have experienced loss. In an interview with Hippocampus Magazine, Smith recalls memoirs about grief that have been influential for her. Below are some of the books she mentions, along with other significant memoirs of grief and loss.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed tells the story of the author's 1,100-mile journey hiking from the Mojave Desert to Washington State, a trip taken to deal with the grief of her mother's death. The book follows the obstacles that Strayed faced along the way as well as how the time on the trail helped her heal.

H Is for Hawk is another account of grappling with grief through an encounter with nature. Falconer Helen Macdonald writes about coping with her father's sudden death through training a deadly predatory bird, the goshawk.

Memorial Drive is the harrowing story of how Pulitzer-winning poet Natasha Tretheway's stepfather murdered her mother. Tretheway examines the points of contact with this tragedy in her mother's life as well as her own, alongside seemingly mundane details that she connects with the event. She explores not only her loss but the nature and significance of memories, dreams and stories.

Crying in H Mart had its start in a personal essay Michelle Zauner published in the New Yorker about navigating the aisles of the store referenced in the title, a popular Asian supermarket chain, while grieving her mother's death from cancer. Zauner details how her memories of H Mart and of certain foods are bound up in her relationship with her mother and her own Korean American identity.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, an editor of Elle magazine who had a stroke at the age of 44 that rendered him largely paralyzed aside from the ability to blink his left eyelid. Through a slow process that involved blinking to select letters of the alphabet as they were read aloud to him, he was able to dictate this memoir, which was published shortly before his death and has been translated from French to English by Jeremy Leggatt. Bauby's experience was also captured in a film directed by Julian Schnabel.

The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso portrays the loss and disorientation resulting from prolonged illness. The memoir recollects Manguso's struggle with a disease that haunted her on and off for decades.

In The Year of Magical Thinking, popular essayist Joan Didion tells of the events surrounding her husband's death and her daughter's serious illness. The memoir won the National Book Award in 2005 and was described by Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times as "an utterly shattering book that gives the reader an indelible portrait of loss and grief and sorrow, all chronicled in minute detail with the author's unwavering, reportorial eye."

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This "beyond the book article" relates to Crossing the River. It originally ran in August 2021 and has been updated for the May 2022 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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