Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson

Is there anything more devastating than the death of a child? It is an inversion of the universe, a shattering of the heart, an unrepairable rip in the fabric of life. For Stephane Gerson and his family, it became a terrible reality when 8 year old Owen drowned on a family rafting vacation. And this memoir is one of the ways in which Gerson not only acknowledged their huge loss but a way that allowed him to finally look more closely at what happened that day, to understand and to accept.

When you plan a vacation with your two young children, you would never imagine that your family of four would be a family of three before it is over. The Gersons, father Stephane, mother Alison, oldest son Julian, and youngest son Owen couldn't have either. Their vacation was supposed to be safe for families with children, a rafting trip on the Green River in Utah. But they left New York as four and returned home as three, Owen having drowned at the spot known as Disaster Falls. Gerson chronicles his overwhelming grief at losing Owen as well as the different journeys that Alison and Julian also took through the days, weeks, months, and years after Owen's death. He speaks of the isolation of sorrow, the pain and anguish, his guilt over what happened that day, and the shocked huddle of a family violently rent apart in this emotionally devastating memoir.

The non-linear time line jumps from the rawness of immediately after the accident to what led up to it and back again as the family learns to negotiate life after Owen. The whole of how Owen died isn't fully presented until well into the book, Gerson coming close to it before shutting down the remembrance many times, only telling the whole of it when he feels he's capable and strong enough to look at it. The story is heart rending and the reader can feel the ache and the searching in the haunting writing even years after Owen's death. The book is clearly a way for Gerson to honor his son and his memory of his son, to mourn the loss not only of the boy that he was, but also the whole of the imagined life he never had a chance to live. There are repetitions here but they so closely echo the stunned and frozen rehashing of what happened, the what ifs, and the if onlys that they seem entirely fitting. Not easy to read, this is a thoughtful, introspective, quite beautiful look at a family and a father going on forever changed by their shared loss for those readers who don't mind being emotionally wrung out at the end of a book.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

1 comment:

  1. You are brave to read this -- I've seen it but am not sure I have the heart.


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