The Alchemy of Loss by Abigail Carter

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

7 responses to “The Alchemy of Loss by Abigail Carter

  1. Pingback: Abigail Carter, Author of The Alchemy of Loss, on Tour December 2008 | TLC Book Tours

  2. “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.”

    You know, until I read your words right here, I hadn’t consciously said this same sentiment in my head…but it was certainly true for me too.

    I didn’t feel like I was a terribly objective reviewer for Abby’s book, because how was I really reviewing it? As a fellow young widow? As someone “merely” reviewing and evaluating its merits as a work of nonfiction? I’d realized that I was probably a bit too biased toward the subject matter, but I hadn’t gotten quite as clear as you that it was normal, to be expected, that I wasn’t objective. So thanks for filling in the blank in my own mind. ;o)

    Glad we both liked it, too. And you were right, in some comment you left on my blog months ago: Abby did talk about money…and I really appreciated that inclusion. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

    • It was difficult to step back and look at it as just a book. You wrote a good review. It’s the kind of evaluation that good writing should provoke too. One that stems from your experiences in relationship to the subject.

      You are welcome. And thanks for commenting.

  3. “the new normal” and “one’s new self”…. clearly, you don’t “get over” the death of a young spouse (public or private). your words are very powerful… and help bring a better understanding. great review. might read this one…

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