Tuesday, August 25, 2020

On an ordinary day, two year old Greta, sitting on a bench with her grandmother, is struck by a piece of masonry that falls from an 8th floor windowsill. Greta’s death is a parent’s worst nightmare, but it is Jayson Greene’s truth.

In Once More We Saw Stars, Greene walks us through the ordinary pieces of a life made unfamiliar by loss.

We push the apartment door open and are greeted by silence. Nothing in here knows about Greta’s death—not her red horsey with its empty smile, the toy bin beneath the living room chair, the straps on her purple high chair that she would fiddle with. We bring the news with us into each room, like smallpox. 

There are breathtaking moments of grace amid the pain, kindnesses between Grenne and his wife that we would all hope to be capable of in our darkest hours. A kiss at a moment of heartbreak that promises hope. This is not a book that leans on faith, Greene chases peace in other pursuits.

Unlike many memoirs, we experience Greene’s loss with an awareness of other perspectives making the story more faceted. Greene names his anger even as he deftly incorporates his wife Stacey and mother-in-law Susan’s experiences into the narrative. As a reader I was emotionally invested in Susan’s burden and Stacey’s tenderness.

I dare you to read Once More We Saw Stars and not hold your loved ones a little closer or seek signs of goodness in the world around you. Then, later, when you are ready for another beautifully sad memoir, try When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi or The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. (Special note: the widows of Kalanithi and Riggs have their own love story.) 

 

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