A few months ago I was asked to read Abigail Carter’s book, The Alchemy of Loss, and write a review for her upcoming blog tour. I almost asked if I was being asked because, like Abby, I was a widow, and the book was about widowhood. However as I had already read and reviewed another novel for a different tour, I just let myself believe this was just about my writing skills. Ignorance is bliss.
In some ways this review was hard to write because I can’t step back from the topics. Loss of spouse. The realities of being widowed with a small child/children. Wanting to and then opening one’s self up to a new person and relationship. I know these things intimately from experience.
As I read Abby’s account, and corresponded with her personally via her own blog and through email, I realized I was not going to be objective at all where the subject matter was concerned, and I resigned myself to it.
Abby’s story begins on September 11th with a of pair phone calls from her husband Arron who was in a restaurant high up in the Twin Towers. She watched on television as they fell, knowing he was inside. Despite the suddenness of her loss compared to mine, I could keenly relate to her in that moment because I watched my own husband die, and all that we had and had planned, disappear right in front of me too.
Abby’s story relates the events of the days and weeks that followed in a clear, compelling and very honest manner. Her willingness to reveal is probably one of the things which most drew me to her story. Moreso even than our shared experience of widowhood.
She writes about her marriage, her husband and immediate family in a respectful yet completely open way. As a reader I felt privileged to be drawn into her confidence, and I felt as much compassion for her as I felt empathy with her. Not every writer can give such a strong voice to his/her words but hers are strong and crystal clear.
Everyone in the memoir rings true. There were no instances where I felt she was glossing over information or trying to put a pretty spin on things. The impact of the public nature of her husband’s death is frankly dealt with, as are the details concerning the 9/11 site, and the way the survivors were handled by the city and various federal governments in the months after the attacks right up to the first anniversary.
Abby paints vivid images, making you feel as though you are there with her. Her accounts of visits to ground zero are haunting. She frankly tells the reader of the pain of loss and rebuilding her life. She is eloquent in the description of her emotional lows, and her struggles with helping her small children as they grieved.
I was particularly impressed with the fact she shared so much of her journey back to the new normal which awaits all survivors. Often, memoirs of tragedy and loss concentrate more on the loss and the grief and skip over the hopefulness of learning to live again as though that is somehow secondary. Abby speaks openly about how publicity affected her grief process and about dating and relationships while grieving and searching for one’s new self.
If you thought there is nothing left to learn about 9/11, or that this is merely another sad tale of a widowed person, I think you will be surprised by Abigail Carter’s The Alchemy of Loss, and I heartily recommend giving it a read.
Abigail Carter’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, December 1st: Crash Course Widow
Wednesday, December 3rd: Solomother
Thursday, December 4th: The Tome Traveler
Monday, December 8th: Widows Quest
Tuesday, December 9th: A Novel Menagerie
Wednesday, December 10th: Anniegirl1138
Thursday, December 11th: Learning To Live
Monday, December 15th: Wormbook
Tuesday, December 16th: My Friend Amy
Wednesday, December 17th: Lesley’s Book Nook
Thursday, December 18th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Monday, December 22nd: Single Mom Finding Herself