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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Short Memoir 'The Death of Me' Packs a Powerful Emotional Punch

"The Death of Me" is a true story, a memoir of the author's ordeal after her husband is severely burned in a plane crash. It's a vividly personal and deeply affecting account that illustrates how wrenching and harrowing the process of grieving can be - especially when you don't know whether to grieve or not. Or what to grieve.

Denise doesn't pull any punches in describing the self-doubt, anger and uncertainty she felt while her husband lay helpless in a hospital bed. She questions her decisions, her faith and her own motives. She talks about the challenges of being there for a husband who's seldom conscious and not being there at times for her children when they needed her.

At a certain point in the story, she begins to insert flashbacks to her life with her husband before the accident. This was a wonderful touch, as it helped the reader connect with the essence of their intense, yet entirely human (and sometimes strained) relationship. As I was reading this, I found myself wishing she had inserted more of these flashbacks earlier in the narrative, but I think I understand why she structured it as she did, and that decision may well reflect her own state of mind as she was going through this nightmare. If so, it is deftly done.

This is a story of the grieving process. If you've ever felt stuck in a situation that doesn't seem to get better but still offers the slightest, elusive hope of a happy ending, you will be able to relate to this book. Whether you are grieving a loved one, a relationship or anything else on the precipice of death, you will be able to relate to this.

I can't personally imagine how Denise wrote this book, and she herself has called it the hardest thing she's ever written. Her emotional honesty gives it a raw feeling that draws the reader through to the end (it's short at 9,000 words, and I read it in a single sitting). I don't think I could have brought myself to revisit such pain, but the author does us a huge service by doing so here. She produces a book many readers will be able relate to on an emotional level, even if the events themselves are far more awful than what many of us will ever face.

Yes, it's the story of grieving, but it's also a story of love - not fairy tale love with knights in shining armor and happily-ever-afters, but the real love of one flawed, confused yet determined human being for another. It's a story about human limits and how love can help us transcend those limits: about how it's always sufficient and, yet, sometimes, isn't quite enough.

Rating: 5 stars.
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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