Monday, December 30, 2013

Book 52 of 52: Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt

What a heart wrenching story. Making Toastby Roger Rosenblatt is about the aftermath of his daughter Amy dying suddenly of a rare heart condition while running on her treadmill. Two of her three small children saw it happen.

After her death, Rosenblatt and his wife move into Amy's home and help her husband cope with the loss and with the children. The story is told in short vignettes, which mirrors what grief does to your system. Everything is scrambled, and flashes of the past, when that person is alive and whole, mix with the profound feeling of loss that they're never coming back. Mix in that this is a story of a father who buried his daughter, and how the children try to cope, and you have an incredibly sad yet beautiful book about love, loss and family. Rosenblatt doesn't make the book entirely about darkness, and I think that's why it works. The children are still children and do funny things. His daughter seems to have been a remarkable person, and he lets that show through too, even as his loss of her is unbearable.

This fall marked the 25th anniversary of my Uncle Tim's passing. He died of cancer, so the death was not sudden, but the magnitude of that death is still felt. I was young then, but I still remember the stream of family in and out of our house and my grandparents' house, the debate of whether or not the kids should go to the funeral (we did not), and a lot of crying. One Sunday in church soon after, my mom broke away from our pew and met my grandparents in the back of the church because she couldn't bear it. When I gave the eulogy at my grandfather's funeral, I cried hardest when I told him to go build buildings with his son in heaven. It's been 25 years and that loss is still so great.

Of course life kept going in those 25 years. His wife re-married and had two more children, who we call our cousins even though we're not blood related. Uncle Tim's daughter just got engaged; his son bought a home. The get together they held for the anniversary of his death was mostly a happy event, with everyone telling their best Time stories, but it's hard not to feel sad that a great man died so young, leaving a wife and two small children behind even though by all accounts they have gone on to live happy, healthy lives.

I read most of Making Toast on a train to and from San Diego with the Pacific Ocean flashing outside my window. I thought half way through that maybe I should pick a cheerier book for both that setting and the last in this series, but I couldn't stop reading. I'm glad I didn't.

So that's it. Another year gone, another 52 books read. I'll do a separate wrap up post about the series, including my top picks for the year. So, as always, stay tuned!

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