Monday, April 21, 2014

Memoirs: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

I don't often read memoirs but this past week I've been on a memoir-reading kick, wanting to take a break from my usual escapes to read more reality-based narratives. It goes in spurts for me.  When the mood hits, I tend to grab and hold on.   

I've recently read two that struck home:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  I liked parts of them for various reasons and mostly read (versus skimmed, which I tend to do with memoirs). 

With regard to Wild, I appreciated that the author took to hiking and nature to repair herself after the untimely death of her mother.  Although a lot of the detail about the trail itself and the people she met along the way felt more caricature than real, I totally got her message and could relate to her thoughts, although not so much with many of her actions, but I understood them.  I felt empathy for this author.  With Didion's memoir, there was so much that she remarked about grief that I found myself nodding throughout most of the book.  I remember when Didion's book first released too.  I discounted it then because I never imagined that I could understand the narrative (or even be interested in it!).  This book was written for other people, not me.  My oh my how life changes and throws you a curve ball.  How wrong and naive I was and thank you Ms. Didion for sharing your very personal story.

The common denominator for both of these memoirs is that people who are grieving often behave, say, and think things that they once never imagined.  When you're grieving, it's almost like you're on the outside looking in, watching everything unfold, feeling very helpless and even frantic.  Like a dream.  A bad crazy mixed up dream.  And, wow.  I totally get that and appreciated both books for that very reason.  I also read both books wondering if the authors would answer the million dollar question: does grieving ever end?  Does that very dark and raw hole in your heart ever heal?  Not sure I got my answer but I'm unsure whether there is an answer either.  Maybe it's important that there isn't?  There, I digress.

If you've lost someone, especially unexpectedly, I highly recommend both of these memoirs.

6 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

They sound powerful. I'd never read a memoir until I picked up Karen Walker's book.

Karen Walker said...

Alex, really? Oh my goodness.
Liz, I've read both of these books and especially loved Didion's for the same reasons you mention. Wild was just so far out of my own comfort zone I got vicarious thrills. As for grieving, for me it comes in waves and the waves get smaller and smaller. But there is always a part of our hearts missing when someone we love is gone.

Crystal Collier said...

I don't usually read memoirs, but they sound good.

I've lost loved ones. Several. I think grieving dims over time, but has to be expected throughout life. There will always be moments when a smell, a sight, a sound reminds us of the person we've lost. Eventually that pain becomes gratitude if handled correctly, that we were blessed to know those who have left our lives.

True Heroes from A to Z

Tracy Jo said...

I'm writing my own or trying to so should probably pick these up. Regarding grieving, It gets easier with time but there are always those moments that bubble up and you feel the pain like it's brand new. At least for me. Have a nice weekend!

LD Masterson said...

I don't read a lot of memoirs but I can certainly relate to this topic. Perhaps I'll try these. Thanks.

Danette Baltzer said...

It does get easier. It takes time and it's weird how it will come over you like it happened yesterday when you think you are doing much better, but those events eventually become fewer and farther between.