Friday, June 26, 2009

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken

This slim little book is about loss, specifically the loss of a baby. Too depressing, you might say? Maybe for some, but it’s also about hope and about recovery. And it’s quite funny and upbeat in places, if you can believe that. McCracken’s first child (a boy) was born dead in 2006 while she was living in France. Her second child (also a boy) was born healthy barely a year later, and is doing fine. The two events are so closely linked that it’s difficult to separate them; they are like two sides of the same coin. McCracken’s book doesn’t take a chronological path through these events but still manages to be a coherent and moving portrait of what happened and how she and her husband dealt with it. And her writing is beautiful: witty, matter-of-fact, and searing, all at once.

I went through a phase where I couldn’t read stories about dead children. I think there still might be some books like this that I won’t ever read (A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton, for one). But something about McCracken’s approach drew me in, and I had read such good reviews! Interestingly, even though I thought it wasn’t getting to me, I ended up having a weird dream where I kept mixing up McCracken’s dead baby with my own firstborn son. My son, who is very much alive, left last week to take a summer job far from home and then is going away to college. So I am facing my own loss, which is nothing like McCracken’s but which nevertheless is obviously bothering me on some subconscious level. And I thought I was fine. Hmmmm. It’s obvious that writing this book was therapeutic for McCracken, but it’s also therapeutic to read it; in my case it’s bringing up issues I didn’t know I had.

(Book 24, 2009)


Steph said...

I read this book on my husband's and my tenth-anniversary cruise. All in one day; unputdownable, sad but not sentimental. Suffice it to say I was the only one lounging poolside with this one...

Angela said...

That sounds like an interesting book - and I love the title. Thanks for the review.

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