The Book Report series consists of monthly articles reviewing one of the books I read that month followed by the complete list of all the books I read and/or listened to. I disclose my monthly reading list (the good, the bad, and the embarrassing) so my readers can draw from the same resources I do or just get an insight into the many interests I have that I might not blog about. If you have any book recommendations for me, pass them along!
I Liked My Life
By: Abby Fabiaschi
My reading list for September is quite short. I've mostly been reading articles for my graduate courses in Women's Spirituality at CIIS, but I managed to sneak in a few fiction books for a break from academic discourse. This month I am highlighting "I Liked My Life" by Abby Fabiaschi, a touching story about a family in the aftermath of a tragic suicide. Fictional accounts like this can help the reader develop empathy for those who are suffering similarly. (For a non-fiction book on coping with grief, check out "Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant).
The book opens with the character Maddy, a beloved mother and wife, in spirit after having jumped off a building and ending her life. She watches over her family with the sense that she has unfinished business before she can completely pass over, which she believes is to find a replacement for herself in the lives of Eve, her teenage daughter and Brady, her husband.
Eve is a month shy of her seventeenth birthday when her mother commits suicide. Even though we don't know exactly what Eve was like prior to her mother's death, we get a sense that she was a typical carefree and popular teenager with few concerns. After losing her mother, she immediately becomes an "other", as she is now treated differently not just by her friends, but by the adults she encounters as well. She no longer feels like she belongs with her friends at school and falls out of love with her boyfriend of two years, despite his attempts to comfort and support her. For Eve, she is no longer the same person she was when she had a mother and decides that she can't continue to pretend that she is. She decides to hire a tutor for the summer and then move away to boarding school for her senior year.
Brady has an experience of grief so raw and tumultuous that I felt my heart breaking for him. He is burdened by a sense of responsibility and shame - responsibility because he didn't know that his wife was unhappy and shame that her way out was to take her own life. The intense feeling of rejection causes him to reframe events from the past as he wonders why he was so stubborn that he even refused to go on vacations with his family. He grapples with being a single parent, realizing for the first time exactly how much Maddy did in their lives together. With his narration, we get an inside look into the thoughts he can't acknowledge to anyone else. Given the stigma that exists in our society around men expressing their feelings of guilt and shame, I thought this first-person insight into Brady's experience was valuable to witness.
As the story evolves through their alternating voices, we watch Maddy influence the introduction of an eccentric schoolteacher named Rory, who becomes Eve's summer school tutor. Although Eve and Brady have already begun healing on their own by the time they meet Rory, having someone in their life who can relate to their grief (Rory loses her own mother in the book) rather than pitying them allows them to find a new balance. As Eve says, "Giving advice to someone in mourning is like offering pretzels to someone who is dehydrated - it doesn't help." When most of their well-meaning friends and family try to help by dropping off food, presents or "checking in"on them by intruding on their privacy, Rory is a true comfort to both Brady and Eve in her effortless support.
But moving on isn't that easy, especially when unanswered questions about Maddy consume Brady and Eve. They discover her journal and through it, realize that she struggled with her own demons more than she had ever let on. Luckily for them, unlike for so many in real life, they are eventually able to get the answers in a surprising twist at the end of the novel.
Their journey is a reminder not to take life for granted; to tell our loved ones how we feel about them; to listen to the quiet suffering of those around us because there is often so much more beneath the surface than what we realize. By the end, we learn that if we are open to it, even grief has it's gifts.
"Some are offended by the idea that there is beauty in mourning, but I can't afford to be swayed by them. For a long time, my loss was all I had. I've trained myself to appreciate the independence and knowledge that accompanies pain." - Eve
Have you read this book or will you be adding it to your list? Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below!
Reading List: August
Good Luck With That - Kristan Higgins
Book of the Utopian Erotic - Alpha Channeling
Autumn Bride - Anne Gracie
I Liked My Life - Abby Fabiaschi