I’m secretly pleased that I’ve written a book on grief that is ‘not elegant’. Grief is not elegant. If the book was elegant it wouldn’t be honest nor do I think it would be helpful. Because my writings from the early days of grieving are raw they are not only honest and helpful in understanding what grief feels like, but they are also powerful. The Kirkus Review of my book used the word “potent”. I like that word. The reviewer also wrote, “This may not be the most elegantly written book on grief, but in sharing her unvarnished emotions, Mertins will surely provide some comfort to those facing a similar loss.”
Known for their to-the-point reviews, I am thrilled that the review itself, in my opinion, is quite fantastic. The reviewer not only really ‘got’ the book but went so far as to say it will provide comfort for those who are grieving (see above). This means I did what I set out to do.
Having said this, there isn’t anyone who has read the review in my presence who has not stumbled over the phrase “This may not be the most elegantly written book on grief…” I did the same thing the first time I read it. But, then I realized, that’s the point. If it had been elegantly written it wouldn’t be right. It would be whitewashed, cleaned-up, made sanitary, banal and somewhat pretty for those who would rather look away. So instead of being another ‘elegantly’ written book about grief, it has become a starting point for discussion and hopefully, improving our understanding of grief.
And here’s an example of why this sentence rocks.
Over the holidays I was out for coffee with a friend who tragically lost his younger sister when he was 16. The conversation turns to my book.
Me (handing over my phone): “So here’s the Kirkus review”
He takes the phone and starts reading.
I wait for a moment and then I say. “ There’s a line in there about it not being the most elegantly written grief book. Ya know, at first I was a little sad when I read that, but, then I was well… grief’s not elegant. Actually, it’s anything but, elegant.”
Him with his head bent over my phone and still reading the review: “Yeah. It’s ugly crying.”
Me now with a chuckle: “Yeah. It IS ugly crying.”
He looks up, we smile at each other and a small chuckle escapes from both of us. We both get it. It’s comforting when someone else understands; it also makes me smile because I know that those who will read my book will feel less alone. They will know that I, a virtual stranger, understand. Needless to say, I’d gladly swap ‘elegance’ any day of the week for “…what makes this work unusual and compelling is her adamant refusal to file the rough edges of her emotions in order to make readers more comfortable.” (Kirkus Review). Yep, I’m very pleased to have written this “… not the most elegant book written on grief…” Well done Heike.