Summary and book reviews of This Angel on My Chest by Leslie Pietrzyk

This Angel on My Chest

by Leslie Pietrzyk

This Angel on My Chest by Leslie Pietrzyk
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2015 Pitt Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

This Angel on My Chest is a collection of unconventionally linked stories, each about a different young woman whose husband dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Ranging from traditional stories to lists, a quiz, a YouTube link, and even a lecture about creative writing, the stories grasp to put into words the ways in which we all cope with unspeakable loss.

Based on the author's own experience of losing her husband at age thirty-seven, this book explores the resulting grief, fury, and bewilderment, mirroring the obsessive nature of grieving. The stories examine the universal issues we face at a time of loss,  as well as the specific concerns of a young widow: support groups, in-laws, insurance money, dating, and remarriage. This Angel on My Chest ultimately asks, how is it possible to move forward with life while "till death do you part" rings in your ears - and, how is it possible not to?

TEN THINGS

These are ten things that only you know now:

ONE

He joked that he would die young. You imagined ninety-nine to your hundred. But by "young" he meant sixty-five, fifty-five. What "young" ended up meaning was thirty-five.

In the memory book the funeral home gave you (actually, that you paid for; nothing there was free, not even delivering the flowers to a nursing home the next day, which cost sixty-five dollars, but you were too used up to care), there was a page to record his exact age in years, months, and days. You added hours; you even added minutes, because you had that information. You were there when he had the heart attack.

Now, when thinking about his life, it seemed to you that minutes were so very important. There was that moment in the emergency room when you begged for ten more minutes. You would've traded anything, everything, for one more second, for the speck of time it would take to say his name, to hear him say your name.

Later, when you ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Unsurprisingly This Angel on My Chest is very touching but the feelings expressed aren't limited to sorrow. They instead cycle through a whole gamut of emotions such as anger, fear, confusion and depression. The book is outward looking too, exploring characters' reactions to their husbands' deaths and the responses of those around the women, rather than depicting any of them as objects of pity. This Angel on My Chest is excellent from start to finish, and deserves a wide audience. Readers who can get beyond their knee-jerk aversion to the subject will find a real gem here.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (686 words).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This book is the winner of the distinguished Drue Heinz Literature Prize, upholding its tradition of excellence in short fiction. Like Magic Rocks in a fishbowl, these stories turn the stones of grief into something bright, crystalline, mesmerizing

Author Blurb Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
A powerful and moving collection. These stories are held together by the experience of grief; a husband dying too soon and a wife left to go on. There is an abundance of wit, and wise observations about life. I always felt firmly rooted in the emotion, startled again and again by the weight of the simplest everyday objects and situations, against a backdrop of loss.

Author Blurb Robin Black, author of If I loved you, I would tell you this
A stunning book, a rare tour de force, this prismatic look at the devastation of losing a young spouse explodes with intelligence, with poetry, with personality, with a dazzling array of views from different perspectives all faced toward the same empty, motionless center.

Author Blurb Richard Bausch, author of Before, During, After
Leslie Pietrzyk has been a favorite writer of mine for a long time now. Don't miss these stories.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

One True Thing

Each of the chapters in Leslie Pietrzyk's short story collection features a young widow. The emotions the author expresses made me wonder what the author may have experienced herself – that is, which experiences were "true." In researching that question, I came across an article she'd written for Psychology Today, reprinted below, that sheds some light on what she'd been through.

My husband was 37 when he unexpectedly dropped dead of a heart attack. I was 35. Until then, the only people I had known who died were distant relatives, and I had coped with those deaths by showing up for the funeral appropriately dressed, discreetly crying into a Kleenex, eating ham from the post-funeral buffet, and murmuring to the bereaved, "Let me ...

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