Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review & Giveaway

I got an e-mail several weeks ago asking whether I'd be interested in reading and reviewing a book about pregnancy after loss. It's a recently published book by Alexis Marie Chute called Expecting Sunshine. The cover is so great with a rainbow colored umbrella. I would actually like an umbrella just like this.



I have read a lot of grief and loss memoirs, and I'm always struck by the way that grief is universal in many ways regardless of situation--the physical symptoms and sensations, feeling isolated and alone, and the fear and anxiety that invade. This book was no exception, and since this is particularly about a pregnancy loss, I could easily connect with and relate to her story.

Chute writes of losing her son, Zachary. She traces her experience of grief and hope through her pregnancy with her second son. She also has a living daughter, Hannah, whom she has to parent through her grief. She organizes the narrative in 41 sections, one for each week of her "rainbow" pregnancy. She talks honestly about the challenges in her marriage, her difficulty connecting with friends, and also the frightening decision to try for another pregnancy: "Yet, I somehow felt equipped for whatever may come, the fire of loss having burnt to ash all doubt in my heart; yes, a child is worth the risk; love is greater than death."

She writes movingly about her disastrous experience with a grief support group at a church. I was saddened by the way her church handled her loss, though I know the dismissive "God has a plan" is all too common a response to something as unfathomable and senseless as losing a baby, and I love the way she kept searching for spiritual answers--it's always inquisitive and never preachy.

I also appreciated the way she grapples with her divided identity as the mother to a living child, a grieving mother, and an artist--she's a painter and photographer who wants to keep working but also recognizes that she might be using her work to hide from her grief rather than work through it.

One section that really resonated with me was in Week 29, when she meets with another mom who is just two months out from losing her child and wants to talk to someone who will understand. Alexis Marie gets to the coffee shop and has that moment of realizing that she actually has no idea what to say: "Should I confess that I survived the last eighteen months since Zachary's death by trail and error?" 

I also noted that she and her therapist had a conversation virtually identical to one I had with my therapist when I was pregnant with Zuzu:

     "Everything with Zachary came as a surprise. if I think about the worst-case scenario now, then maybe when things go wrong next time--"
     "If."
     "If they go wrong next time, then maybe I won't be so destroyed."
     "Even if you knew from the beginning, even if you prepared yourself for the worst with Zachary, you would still have been devastated."
     "I guess, I guess you're right. You are right. [...] But I don't want to tell myself everything is going to be okay with this pregnancy when I won't know until the end."


I can't say that this book was full of revelations or discoveries for me. Alexis Marie processed her grief in some ways that were different from my experience, but there were many moments of overlap. Her voice is real and approachable and I felt like we could have one of those conversations where you keep interrupting each other to say "Me too!"

I would love to give this book away to someone who would benefit from it. If you'd like to read it because you've lost a child, or you'd like to give it to someone you know, please leave a comment and I'll select one at random on Saturday, April 29. I'll announce the winner on the blog, then ask you to e-mail me so we can work out the mailing address. The book will be gently used as it has been read by me and has a couple of pencil marks in the margins, but it doesn't have food, wine, or boogers smeared on it, so it's in better condition than most of my clothes right now.

5 comments:

  1. lol

    i don't want it if there are no boogs ;)

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    1. Lol boogies.
      I'm not in a place where I want to read a babyloss book right now (except yours!) but there was a long time when I could read about nothing except grief and babyloss and I hope this book finds its way to someone in that place and can help her feel less alone.

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  2. Me! And I have a former student who needs every bit of this right now.

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  3. I'm always up for grief and baby loss reading and have lots of friends (unfortunately) whom I could pass it on to afterwards!

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  4. Sadly I have a new friend who would benefit from this. Would love to send her way. Sigh. It just doesn't end.

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