BookBrowse Reviews Crossing the River by Carol Smith

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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

    Paperback:
    May 2022, 272 pages

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A hopeful investigative memoir about lessons taken from grief.

Carol Smith is a prize-winning journalist who has worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Los Angeles Times and the public radio station KUOW in Seattle. Her memoir Crossing the River received an average 4.7 stars from our First Impressions reviewers.

What the book is about:

This is a beautifully written memoir by Carol Smith, who was heartbroken by the death of her young son Christopher, of how she was able to overcome her grief... Each of the seven stories in her book follows people who faced devastating losses, and how the support of families, friends, the medical community and many others helped 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 (Sherrie R).

Readers praised the combination of personal writing and excellent journalism.

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 (Laurie W). 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 she begins to realize that there is transformative power in loss, and that hope and loss, joy and sorrow, grace and grief can co-exist (Frances A).

They also remarked on the book's value as a tool to help those struggling with their own grief.

Somehow Carol Smith has written a self-help book — I hesitate somewhat to call it that, but this is a book that arises beyond a memoir, offering anyone seeking better insight into self a way to grasp how hope and acceptance can be found (Janine S). This book will not be for everyone but it definitely met a need for me… I highly recommend for those who are grieving (Donna).

Reviewers warned that the material may be too upsetting for some.

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 (Kathleen K). 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... 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 (Shirl).

But overall, they found the memoir inspiring and hopeful.

This book is certainly heavy and can be difficult to read, but a journey into these lives is a beautiful one (Amber H). Crossing the River is a sober, hopeful reminder that we're not all as separate as we sometimes think. What we've been through, somebody else has been through (Rory A). 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 (Laurin B).

And many felt that it offered life lessons beyond the subjects of grief and loss.

I came away with much more than another way to examine and to cope with the loss of someone you love. Crossing the River is FULL of lessons on living life to the fullest, coping with everyday pain and disappointment, and being the best mother, father, sister, brother, friend and neighbor you can be (Debra C). I was captivated by this story and found some important lessons for myself about the power of a positive outlook. Although this is Carol Smith's personal story, it contains messages for all readers about what it means to be alive (Nancy L).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2021, and has been updated for the June 2022 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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