Lately, I have been reading books more for the writing than for the story. When I shop on Kindle, with it’s “get a sample” option, I don’t have to commit to buying, until I’ve done some reading, which really helps me to find stuff I don’t just think I’ll like, but actually like. (I am notorious for buying a book and then just hating it and having to fight with myself about reading it when I don’t want to).
Recently I read a wildly emotional book which normally, I wouldn’t have wanted to read because of the topic, but the writing, the writing was so absolutely gorgeous, a pack of rabid wolves couldn’t have kept me away.
The book is called Once More we Saw Stars: a Memoir by Jayson Greene. And bloody hell, its apt and beautiful writing and awe-inspiring gut wrenching story telling is stunning. Greene tells the true and horrific story of his two-year-old girl getting hit on the head with a piece of a New York city building (a total freak accident), while in her grandma’s arms. I’m not ruining it to tell you that she dies. You find that out pretty quickly. And it hurts, but what is extraordinary about this book is not only the way the parents move through this horrific loss, but the telling of the story, the candid, raw and apt way he describes the aftermath, the pain and the path he and his wife take to carry on.
Why, you might wonder, wouldn’t I find a book that was just as well written, but more, well, upbeat? Good question! And I wondered it myself. With all of the exceptional books out there, the zillions of choices, why read about something so painful?
I’m visiting my son in California right now and I’ve had some time to think about this. And here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s the humanity factor.
When people share their worst moments, the kind of pain that forces one to question everything about living, they’re getting to the heart of the human condition. And we can all relate to the searing darkness that can exist amidst the bright blue skies of that complexity. I think this is what connects us, this examination of the broad range of experiences, of the investigation into what we can endure, because in the telling, we connect.
My son is 24, with his first grown-up house and job. There is a beauty in seeing this for me, but it is also tinged with a wistfulness over his no longer being a kid anymore, that the days of his childhood are gone. When I tell you this, you can maybe relate to it from your experience, and it is here that we create a connection to one another, to the greater humanity we all share. The more we share, the more we share.
So, while I haven’t had something as horrible as Jayson Greene had happen to me, his bringing me into the tent of his experience, his grief, he brings me closer to everyone and everything. This is what good writing does. It brings us closer, and gratitude for that.