Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

Summary: "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died. How do you deal with and recover from this kind of loss? Of course you don't-but you go on. And if you have ever experienced loss or love someone who has, you will hope to go on with the help and company of this remarkable book.

With humor and heart and unfailing generosity, McCracken considers the nature of love, and grief. She opens her heart and leaves all of ours the richer for it. -- Little, Brown and Company

When I first received an ARC of AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION by Elizabeth McCracken, I wasn't sure it was a book that wanted to read. I knew it would be a difficult subject matter for me. My sister was pregnant and in her ninth month; and I thought I would just put it away until she delivered a healthy baby. The day after she gave birth to my little nephew, I decided to pick up this book and give it a try. I read this book in one sitting! I have to say that this book was an incredibly moving account of Ms. McCracken's loss of her baby boy.

As I sit down to write this review, I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be able to express my feelings about this story. This book is extremely powerful. I thought that I might relate a little bit to the author and her book because I lost two babies through miscarriages. However after reading her account, I can safely say that I did not go through anything as difficult as losing a baby after carrying it for nine months. I don't know if there is anything more painful to a woman and mother than to lose a child. In this case, it was particularly sad for me because she never even had the chance to really "meet" and know her child.

Needless to say, I cried quite a few times while reading this book. There was one chapter, which was less than two pages, where I was actually sobbing. It was almost in the middle of the book where Ms. McCracken remembers back to when she was a teenager and a man handed her a card on a subway that told her, "I am deaf." She related this experience to how she felt after losing her child. Instead of constantly having to explain what happened to everyone she encountered, she would have liked to have been able to hand them a card saying, "My first child was a stillborn." I am absolutely amazed that Ms. McCracken could pack so much emotion into so few words.

I have not read any of Ms. McCracken's other works, and I wasn't familiar with her before reading this book. I was just blown away by Ms. McCracken's writing style. This book was written so incredibly well. In addition, I was extremely impressed with Ms. McCracken's honesty and the manner in which she shared her difficult story. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for her to write this book, and I think that she did an amazing job of conveying to the reader how painful this experience was for her and her husband. I think what amazed me the most about this book, though, was the humor that Ms. McCracken still managed to use in telling her story.

While the subject matter is at times very difficult to read, I highly recommend reading AN EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION. It is a beautifully written memoir that will definitely touch you. I know this book will continue to remain in my thoughts for quite awhile after reading it.


Ti said...

Yeah...definitely not an easy subject matter to take in but great job with the review.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I agree. You did a nice job with the review. I think books such as this are important showcases for our shared experiences, especially when the issues are so difficult. Elizabeth McCracken is one of my favorite writers -- I'll be looking for this book.

S. Krishna said...

I felt the exact same way! I couldn't find words to describe this book. Great review though!

Anonymous said...

I feel choked up reading your review. My sil is in her ninth month of pregnancy, so I'll have to wait awhile.

Bridget said...

Julie, Hi!

We've posted your contest at Win A Book. Thanks for the notice.

Anna said...

Sounds like a hard book to read. My sister went through the same thing, except she was in her 8th month. The good news is she's due to have her second son either today or tomorrow, and so far, everything's going fine.

I bet once everything is settled down after the birth that this is a book she'd be interested in reading. One of the hardest things for her after the stillbirth was not knowing anyone who really understood what she went through.

Great review, btw.